Key Points:

Apple's announcement in December that this would be the last Macworld it would attend put a damper on the show, according to some attendees. Some Apple employees from around the world might miss their annual San Francisco shopping trips, though.

iLounge, the famous iPod (and iPhone, latterly) dedicated site, found the conference sombre, saying that "Apple's impending departure from the Expo has *similarly all but sucked the air from Moscone Center's convention halls."

It appears many iPod and iPhone third-party developers are already planning not to attend next year's Expo (which will effect the event's revenue). Probably many will relocate to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, running at the same time of the year. At least the weather will be (slightly) warmer.

iLounge posted this even before Phil Schiller's keynote which went on to introduce, as I said last Mac Planet, not much. Not much in the way of hardware, anyway.

After the keynote, reactions posted from attendees confirmed the feeling that Apple could have debuted more. Apple's share price slid a tiny bit on the news, too.

But while many journalists suspect Apple allows some disinformation to flourish before Macworld shows, to get people talking and to whip up enthusiasm, many of the rumours of this new equipment actually came from information slip-ups from the Chinese manufacturers Apple uses and/or patent filings, if not from the somewhat suspect "usually reliable sources" inside the notoriously secretive and guarded Apple itself.

So a lot of what we - perhaps stupidly, but at least in genuine hope - expected, like the promised (imagined?) new mini, iMac and more ... well, they might well still appear. Soon, even, now that Apple is officially free of annual January Macworld expectations.

It effectively means Steve Jobs and co can release as many new products at as many "special events" as they want, when they're ready and without any unseemly rushing. Apple sends out special invitations to these (although it appears Apple doesn't have my contact details).

So hopefully it was highly significant that the keynote culminated with singer Tony Bennett crooning The Best is Yet to Come. We all hope so.

You have to hand it to Apple really. The timing of the Macworld event may have suited IDG, which owns it, but it's mid-winter in San Francisco and coming just after the Christmas/Hanukkah/New Year's/Whatever holiday period, it must have been a real challenge setting up for the show and getting products ready on time. Yet Apple staff have managed to do so year after year.

There's a rundown of good reasons why Apple has ditched Macworld Conference and Expo at TechRadar here's one: as Schiller even pointed out in his introduction, Apple equals the attendance of 100 Macworld conferences a week inside its stores worldwide.

This keynote wasn't a bad job, I thought. Phil, looking like he was from Auckland's North Shore with his shirt tucked in, may have started a little nervously and he thanked the attendees perhaps a little too effusively, but he warmed up as he talked about Apple's successes, which continues to surprise considering how other firms are suffering. Last year was Apple's best fiscal year ever. He carried on in fine form, with a clear and well illustrated presentation.

Frankly, I'm pleased - really pleased - that iLife '09 and iWork '09 aren't online-only web apps. That's because, in New Zealand, we are connected to the rest of the world by one forlorn cable under the deep and dangerous Tasman Sea. Imagine a little tsunami, stranding all your data in California ... bah!

The crowd even got excited about Keynote '09, for goodness sake. When has a Macworld crowd ever been excited about presentation software?

The iTunes 'DRM-free' announcement has ramifications beyond the conference, effecting the general business model of the iTunes store and the music buying public. The BBC reported that the new model's varied pricing structure actually retains some DRM in cheaper tracks, depending on cost.

The site also quotes Mark Mulligan, a director with market analysts Jupiter Research, saying the end of DRM in its current form was inevitable: "The only reason it has taken so long is that the record industry has been trying to level the playing field, by giving away DRM free to everyone else...everyone else but Apple, presumably to try and curb Apple's success as a music vendor...but even that hasn't dented Apple's [music market] share," said Mulligan.

"Ultimately, what we're going to end up with is a new form of DRM. The more you pay, the less DRM you get bolted onto your music. Premium music will be DRM free, the cheaper it gets, the more shackles are attached. So it looks like iTunes' music store could soon get even more powerful in the market." All powerful...

Another change is that now iPhone users can purchase and buy songs over 3G cell networks instead of just over Wi-fi. I'm not sure if Vodafone supports that here yet or not, but it will up your data usage (I've never used more than 40MB on mine, so far).

The new Apple hardware, when it finally appeared during the keynote, was most welcome. But one beautiful, big unibody MacBook Pro is not enough to please most Apple fans.

Finally, crooner Tony Bennett sang I Left My Heart in San Francisco. This was effectively a farewell from Apple to the show - Apple is headquartered nearby in Cupertino.

Goodbye, then.

*Similarly to what happened after Apple pulled out of other big trade shows, like that of Paris, France.


- Mark Webster 


PHOTO: Phil Schiller delivers the Macworld keynote. (AP)