Monday, December 22, 2008


NOTE: For those of you over 40: IRL = "In Real Life"

So last week when Apple announced that it would pull out of MacWorld next year, and, oh yeah, by the way, Steve Jobs won't be doing the keynote THIS year... people went absolutely bat s**t.

There were 1,000,000 blogs on the topic - rife with speculation that Mr. Jobs had a spat with the organizers (IDG) and that they simply were "taking their dollies and going home." To add insult to injury - they offered up a Jobs Replacement - Phil Shiller. Now, I don't know Mr. Shiller personally, and I'm sure he's a great guy and everything, but geez... he for SURE no Steve Jobs.

Apple's cold press release about the fact that they were just dumping MacWorld - right before the show (January 6-9, 2009) was about as childish and stupid as you can get. It's like getting dumped via a text message.

Would it have killed them to have Steve get up and say "Nothing new... and one more thing... we got NOTHING new to pimp." Then in February or March, just come out and say that due to _______ (insert standard corporate crap here) they are "re-aligning" their tradeshow strategy with market conditions... or something?

The "other" big show that's going on at exactly the same time is the once-huge CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas. There was a time where this show was like the old COMDEX show - 150,000 people strong. Where you would physically age while waiting for a cab. When the crappiest, dirtiest, keep-your-socks-on-at-all-times-people hotel room was going for $395 per night. Last year, not so much. This year, even less "so much."

I don't know if it's just a reflection of the recessionary times we live in - or whether people just really don't give a crap - but it seems like (to me at least) that tradeshows in general are just sucking wind. They're expensive for both the attendees as well as the exhibitors (I've been both, many, many times). Yeah, it's cool to get all the useless swag to give to your kids and all, but really - what function do these live, in-person events really play?

We live in a world of 140 character "blogs". A world full of "status" messages on social networking sites, and a world in which 25% of the paper wealth of everyone just vanished overnight.

And it's not just tradeshows. It's user conferences and gatherings. Just last week Novell just canceled their "BrainShare" (user) conference because a bunch of the people said they weren't coming because of restrictions on their travel budgets.

Personally, I say - good riddance. I think it's important to meet with customers face-to-face. There are certain things that Twitter, and emails can't convey. However, I think that the power of meeting with people IRL is the fact that they all share a certain love for a product, service or industry and they want to be around others who are like-minded.

The problem is that with technology being what it is - phones, and Skype and online meetings and webcams are slowly taking the place of speakers, presenters, drinks in the bar and good old fashioned business card exchanges.

I guess the change in the way we interact together was (is) inevitable. There was a time when I had physically printed manuals for all the software I used sitting on a bookshelf. Now I either just use the online help (usually F1 on a PC application) - or I use Google as my online manual. I don't need no stinkin' printed manual - and I don't need to go IRL with other folks to find out about any new developments in my industry.

I get 24 hour news, 500 blogs that report the absolute latest and greatest, etc. However, I think that if shows like MacWorld and CES go the way of COMDEX - a little bit of humanity goes with it. And once it goes, it's very difficult to get back.

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