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IDG softens stance in Macworld spat

The trade show company manages a bit of détente with Apple after a war of words brought on by its decision to move the event from New York to Boston.

After a war of words last week, Apple Computer and Macworld Expo show promoter IDG World Expo managed a bit of détente Monday.

The feuding began last week when Apple threw cold water on IDG's plans to move the East Coast version of the twice-yearly Mac trade show from New York to Boston. Apple said that it "disagreed" with the move, would not be taking part in any Boston shows and was re-evaluating whether to participate in the final New York show, slated for July.

In response, IDG threatened to keep Steve Jobs off the stage at Macworld Expo in San Francisco. IDG World Expo CEO Charlie Greco told the Boston Globe that "We don't have to let them. We might not let you cherry-pick which Macworld events you do...That's currently under discussion here."

However, IDG has now backpedaled from that stance. On Monday, the trade show organizer said Apple will indeed take part in January's Macworld Expo in San Francisco and said the parties remain in talks about Apple's participation in future East Coast shows.

"IDG World Expo and Apple have...agreed to hold ongoing discussions about Apple's role in upcoming East Coast Macworld events," IDG said in a statement it sent to CNET An Apple representative declined to comment.

The dispute appears to involve more than just the move to Boston, with Apple apparently reconsidering whether it wants to do two major U.S. trade shows a year.

Whereas Macworld Expo keynotes were once the primary venue for Apple product introductions, the company has moved increasingly to a year-round product introduction schedule, in part to keep the shelves of its own retail stores constantly refreshed.

Those stores have also served as a major gathering point for Apple loyalists and would-be converts. CEO Steve Jobs has noted in his two recent Macworld keynotes that each month more people pass through Apple's stores in total than go to several Macworld trade shows.

Tim Bajarin, an analyst at Campbell, Calif.-based consultancy Creative Strategies, said the two companies are probably posturing to gain an upper hand in negotiations over costs and control of the show, but said a compromise is likely.

"There is no question they mutually need each other," Bajarin said.

In an interview last week, Greco told CNET he was shocked to learn of Apple's intentions just moments before a scheduled press conference to announce the move back to Boston beginning in the summer of 2004. Greco said he was still not entirely clear what Apple's motives were.

"The only indication that I get from them is that they seem to be soft on the idea (of doing) two shows," Greco said. "I don't think it's a Boston vs. New York thing, quite frankly."

However, the plan to move the show from a major media center to more of a regional hub may have further soured Apple on the East Coast show.

Apple is not the only company to revisit the idea of making the trip east. Adobe and Macromedia both skipped the New York show this year, and Adobe also took a pass last year.

Bajarin said that Apple would be wise to keep a presence at both shows.

"I would argue that Apple still truly needs an East Coast and a West Coast show in order to not only showcase its products but to emphasize its marketing message to both audiences," Bajarin said.

That said, Bajarin said Apple is clearly pondering its needs.

"Trade shows are not as effective as they used to be, and they clearly cost a lot of money."

Regardless of whether Apple pulls out, Greco said, IDG is committed to putting on an East Coast version of Macworld--next year in New York and from then on in Boston.

"Macworld July 2003 (in New York) is on, period. Macworld July 2004 Boston is on...We're on with or without them," Greco told CNET last week. "We would very much prefer that they come and support the event as they have for 18 years."

Greco said that IDG World Expo probably does have a way out of its multiyear contract with Boston, but said that Macworld Expo is definitely moving to the city.

"We have lots of options here in Boston, but we are not going to exercise them," Greco said, adding that the Boston show will be cheaper to run and less expensive for companies that want to set up a booth at the event. "It will do better here," Greco said. "It will be more profitable for exhibitors."