Jobs to skip Macworld keynote as Apple backs out

CEO Steve Jobs planning to skip his annual January keynote address, and the Mac maker is ending its relationship with IDG's Macworld Expo.

Tom Krazit Former Staff writer, CNET News
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Tom Krazit
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The era of the Macworld Stevenote is over. Corinne Schulze/CNET Networks
This post was updated at 2:30 p.m. PST with more details, and at 6:15 p.m. with IDG's reaction.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs has given his last keynote address at Macworld in San Francisco.

The company announced on Tuesday afternoon that January's Macworld would mark its last year participating at the show, which is run by publishing company IDG. In addition, Apple said Phil Schiller, senior vice president of worldwide marketing, will deliver the keynote, usually handled by Jobs.

Apple representative Steve Dowling declined to comment on Jobs' health, a prominent topic of discussion this year. Jobs' keynote addresses at Macworld have become almost legendary events, launch pads for some of the company's most important products and strategies. His absence from what many in the Apple community consider their Super Bowl will once again revive rumors that Jobs is ill.

"Phil is giving the keynote because this will be Apple's last year at the show," Dowling said. "It doesn't make sense for us to make a major investment in a trade show we will no longer be attending."

Apple seems to be declaring that it no longer needs industry events like Macworld to get its message out. The company has 250 retail stores around the world that draw millions of people a week, and its Web site is among the top 10 sites, in terms of traffic, on the Internet.

IDG and Apple have had a rocky relationship in the past. Apple used to participate in far more Macworld events than the San Francisco event, and a rift developed between the companies when IDG made the decision to move the Macworld event in New York to Boston, near the company's Framingham, Mass., headquarters. Apple promptly pulled out of that event, and the East Coast Macworld was canceled in 2005 due to lack of interest without the star attraction.

An IDG representative did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

The decision to have Jobs skip Macworld does not necessarily mean that his days as Apple's primary spokesman are over. It seems that Apple is planning to shift its resources toward producing its own events, such as the annual Worldwide Developers Conference in June and the September iPod-music event.

But much of the company's vaunted marketing buzz has come from Macworld, which, unlike those other events, allows Apple fans on the street to purchase a ticket and gawk at new Apple gear on display. It's not clear at the moment whether Apple plans to introduce an event that fulfills a similar function, but that will be interesting to watch.

Schiller's keynote address is scheduled to take place at 9 a.m. PT on Tuesday, January 6.

Update: IDG did not return our calls seeking comment regarding Apple's decision, but IDG's Paul Kent is telling various members of the media that the company still plans to put on Macworld Expo 2010, with or without Apple.