I was in the middle of researching some deathly dull post about Mac laptop sales or some crap like that when I suddenly stumbled upon something much juicier and more mysterious: Apple is going to pull out of Macworld after this year, and next month's edition will have a keynote address by Phil Schiller, not Steve Jobs. I guess this makes the news that Adobe and Belkin are pulling out look kind of tame, huh?
Observers boggled by this information should perhaps keep in mind a few things. First, Macworld Conference and Expo is not Apple's own dog and pony show, but is rather run by IDG (which, full disclosure, is ITworld.com's corporate parent). Appearing there is an expense for Apple, and the company doesn't control everything there (and you know how Apple likes controlling things).
Second, you young'uns may not remember, but there actually used to be two Macworld Expos -- one on the east coast in the summer, and the one in San Francisco we all know and love. IDG moved the East Coast expo from New York to Boston in 2002, at which point Apple promptly pulled out; it lingered a couple more years, unloved, before dying a lonely death. Jon Gruber's analysis at the time is available in this blast from the past note.
It seems unlikely that Macworld San Francisco can long survive without Apple's participation either. In Apple's press release, the company basically says that it can reach people through its stores and its Web site and it doesn't need the expense of a trade show; if it desperately needs an exciting product introduction, it can just run one itself like it did for the new laptops a few months ago. Mac observers and rumor sites will miss the opportunity to work themselves into a frenzy of speculation before each scheduled Stevenote, but in truth this affects the average person not at all.