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October 21, 2014

Macworlds expire. Apple soars. Not linked.

Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 3.14.11 AMOne classy way to go out of the conference business: tell your sponsor vendors the next conference won't happen, six months early. Don't take their deposits for show space.

You can file this report under Types of End of Life. The HP 3000 had an alleged end of life. HP announced it about 13 years ago, but that was the vendor's report about its 3000 activities. There can be a demise in classic support structures for a system once it wanes. But those structures, like information and community events, might be wobbly all by themselves. Things do change.

Everything called Macworld has now gone away. There was a print magazine, roaring through the '80s, the '90s, and even until about 10 years ago. Printed publications about computer lines, focused on one vendor, built this industry. IDG owned Macworld, owns PC World, owns Computerworld. Only the last publication still prints news on paper and sends magazines into the mail. Things change. There's this invention called the Internet.

In another post I pointed to the HP publications no longer in print. All of them, except for the Newswire. HP Professional, InterACT, HP Omni. Long ago, SuperGroup, and HP User. Interex Press, HP World. Every one of them exited. The departure for some was the trigger of that HP end of life announcement. Others rolled over when something bigger died: their parent company, or interest in Hewlett-Packard's products. One of the last executive directors of the Interex user group asked a big question: "How do you make a vendor-specific user group relevant in a cross-platform world?" said Chuck Piercey.

HP World 2005


Another way to go out of the show business: tell your partners nothing about the departure, and market as if it's all going fine. This, from a web page less than four weeks before the final, canceled HP World conference -- a page still online on the day before the user group's demise.

IDG's expo division has asked the same stay-relevant question about the 30-year-old Macworld conference. And answered it. The expo is now on hiatus, and unlikely to emerge again. Macworld Expo added a sister expo called iWorld to embrace the rocketing mobile products from Apple. More than one third of Macworld/iWorld exhibitors bought booth spots in a bullpen called the Appalooza. More important, though, was the exodus of tens of thousands of square feet of show space, once purchased by the industry's giants. Adobe. HP. Canon. Microsoft. Little vendors in little booths were not enough to counter big changes in our industry's communication.

Apple reported a record profit yesterday, and its stock is trading at $716 a share (corrected for the 7:1 split of the springtime). Apple announced an end of life of its user show exhibitions four years ago. Macworld Expo never was the same. The vendor got healthier and bigger, so why did the magazine and show founder? Things change. Customers, always the prize for a conference or a magazine, found better ways to learn about owning products. And what to purchase.

Purchasing is not a big part of the HP 3000 experience anymore. Not like it was when there were seven Hewlett-Packard-focused publications, or even where there were just four left in the world. Purchases for HP 3000s involve replacement systems, virtualized alternatives, support, and migration services. Some software makes its way into the commerce chain. But a replacement package for another system is most likely to be a line item on a budget. Training will be on the new platform, in nearly every encounter.

HP's fortunes have been rocky over the last four years, ever since the company cut loose its majordomo Mark Hurd. That decline hasn't affected trade shows for the vendor -- it runs the only genuine meeting it calls HP Discover. The days and nights of Discover are likely to continue for many years. HP sells at that conference and trains customers and its staff. Education isn't the point of a trade show visit anymore. Seeing products and asking questions about them -- that's done over the Web.

The printed publication, the trade conference: these are artifacts of a world where you needed paper and pacing an expo floor to learn the most important things about a computer you love. I attended seven of the last Macworld Expos, including a couple of memorable Steve Jobs speeches about embracing Intel chips, and yes, the iPhone debut. Special mornings, those were, seeing Intel's CEO emerge in a clean room suit onstage. Or watching the faithful crowd seven-deep around the initial iPhone, rotating in a Gorilla Glass case. As it happens, that iPhone debut was a watershed. More than half of Apple's business now comes from mobile products.

The last six mobile rollouts have been press-only by invitation -- and a short list at that. The events were webcast live, with video and audio ever-better on each rollout day. PR has shifted from in-person, or by-phone, to texts and emails and webinars and live demos. You don't need to be someplace to learn a certain amount about a computer. That certain amount is enough for most customers and partners. Enthusiasts want more. In the Apple world, they'll have to go to their laptop screens or iPhones to get it. 

In truth, they're already there. In the HP world, the customers are reading webpages and watching webinars. One of those two vendors, Apple, has its afterburners on full throttle. Hewlett-Packard separated from the 3000's orbit four years ago. HP Enterprise customers will see a new world of a company next year after the vendor's split, but there won't be an HP World again. Not in print, not in an expo hall. Those are legacy means of communication and exchange. The expos hosted community, but newer generations of customers find community on mobile screens. Everything changes, and everything ends.

Here's to you, partner-based expos. You were wondrous fun and a rocket-sled ride while you lasted. The depth of any vendor's ride into the customer's heart will be determined by vessels on other trajectories.

06:06 PM in History, Newsmakers | Permalink

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