Let the speculation begin! Apple today announced that not only will this January's Macworld Expo be the company's last appearance at the annual gathering of Mac faithful, but also that the keynote address - traditionally Steve Jobs's star turn - will be given by Apple's senior VP of Worldwide Product Marketing Philip Schiller.
Although Apple's press release doesn't mention Jobs, his absence from the announcement can't help but re-ignite rumors of his impending absence from Apple.
Jobs's poor health has repeatedly fueled rumors of his possible stepping down from this stewardship of Apple, which he guided through an impressive rebirth since the company's dark days in the late 1990s.
With Schiller taking Jobs's place on the Macworld stage, those rumors are sure to blaze even brighter. And it's no accident that Apple's announcement was made after the markets closed today, as Apple's stock is almost certainly to be buffeted by the development.
As for Apple leaving Macworld Expo, that news may be - is - a blow to the Expo's organizer, IDG World Expo, but it's not entirely unexpected. As Apple's press release says, "Apple has been steadily scaling back on trade shows in recent years, including NAB, Macworld New York, Macworld Tokyo, and Apple Expo in Paris."
In addition, trade shows themselves have become less and less important over the years - witness, for example, the withering of COMDEX and the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), among others.
Besides, tough times require tough measures, as Adobe and Belkin illustrated with their recent pull-outs from Macworld Expo.
But although Schiller has appeared yearly at the keynote for as long as memory serves, his role has been as cuddly sidekick, not top spokesperson. His persona is reassuring, not inspiring. With Jobs off center stage, however, reassurance may be what Apple enthusiasts will need the most. ®