Macworld Organizer Bets on Apple

IDG World Expo is reportedly seeking to reassure nervous exhibitors with a promise to refund their money if Apple pulls out of future shows.

SAN FRANCISCO—A continuing dispute between Apple Computer and Macworld Expo organizer IDG World Expo has prompted speculation among Mac vendors and users over whether last weeks gathering here would be the last to feature an Apple booth and a Steve Jobs keynote presentation.

Now, sources report, IDG has moved to reassure nervous exhibitors with a bold offer: If Apple doesnt commit to Julys show in New York, they can get their money back.

Mac vendors at the San Francisco show said Boston-based IDG had added the escape clause to their contracts; the show organizer reportedly expects to settle the issue of Apples participation in New York by the end of this month.

Apple and IDG representatives declined to comment on the reports, except to say that negotiations are continuing over future Macworlds.

A number of longtime exhibitors said an Apple decision to pull out of the East Coast show would likely affect their own participation.

"We would hesitate to be a part of the show if Apple is not involved," said Stanley Ossias, senior product manager with the Desktop Marketing Group of Markham, Ontario-based ATI Technologies. "It would remove a general interest and definitely affect the general viability of the show.

"We would definitely like to see this show in the future, but the question is definitely out there," Ossias said. "If Apple pulls out, there would be a lot of uncertainty, and that does not make for a viable trade show."

Mary Starman, lead product manager with Microsoft Corp., of Redmond, Wash., was slightly more optimistic about Macworld Expos prospects if Apple were to sit the show out. "We would definitely get our team together to revisit our strategy about what will do," she said. "But any trade show is a great opportunity for us to meet our customers, and it doesnt matter who is or isnt in the show."

"Realistically, I dont know of any company that is going if Apple isnt—unless theyre based in New York," said an executive with another longtime Mac developer, who lamented the potential loss of exposure if Macworld Expo were scaled down. "Steve [Jobs is] saying we can do regional events at the store, but that doesnt help me get in front of Apples customers the rest of the year." During his keynote presentation last week, Jobs told the crowd that Decembers traffic to the companys nationwide chain of 51 retail outlets was "equivalent to 20 Macworlds."

While some vendors mused that this could be the end of line for Apple as a Macworld exhibitor, others suggested that the Mac maker may decide to cut back to an annual appearance in San Francisco, a far less expensive show for the Cupertino, Calif., company.

IDG World Expo Japan in December cancelled Macworld Expo/Tokyo for 2003, citing lack of support by key exhibitors, apparently including Apple. In recent years, the show had been the occasion for Apple CEO Jobs biggest annual public appearance in Asia.

That announcement followed a well-publicized dispute between Apple Computer Inc. and IDG World Expo over the latters announcement that starting in July 2004, it will relocate the East Coast edition of Macworld Expo from New York to its Boston birthplace, where it was held from 1984 until 1998.

Apple responded to IDGs move with a public statement that it would "not be participating in Macworld Boston" and that it would "re-evaluate [its] participation in Macworld New York 2003."

Apple and IDG subsequently said they had agreed to discuss Apples participation in forthcoming Macworld Expos.