Macworld Enters 3rd Year Post-Apple; Is it Still Relevant?

The annual Macworld exposition begins on Thursday in San Francisco, and for the twenty-eighth consecutive year will bring together Apple fans, users and developers. But this installment adds a new twist — and a new name.

It’s now billed as Macworld | iWorld, which better captures “the essence of what a mobile lifestyle is,” according to event general manager Paul Kent.

As part of that emphasis, this year’s convention will include a festival of films exclusively shot on iPhones and how-to sessions about ways to better leverage Apple’s mobile-friendly technology. Macworld | iWorld will also feature the traditional assortment of lectures and product demonstrations. Artists and musicians will showcase work created using Apple products. The event runs Thursday through Saturday.

But Macworld | iWorld also faces a challenge: Three years after Apple’s final appearance at the event, can it remain relevant to fans and consumers?

Kent said the showcase is aware of the challenge but believes it still has great utility as a way for fans and consumers to talk to developers, get their hands on new apps, and pick up useful tips and hints in a unique way.

“We answer the question of, ‘What do I do now?’ after people have walked out of the Apple Store with their new Mac or iPhone or iPad,” he said in an interview.

“The tools are so powerful and accessible that you ramp up much differently that you do using Windows or Android,” Kent added.

Lost Its Luster?

One longtime Mac developer told Mashable that the event may have lost some of its luster since Apple pulled out, but that it still has significance within the Mac-loving community.

“I think it’s still relevant, but whether it’s as relevant is hard to judge,” said Christopher Allen, who has developed applications for Mac since 1984 and written books for iOS users.

Allen is attending this year’s event to do marketing for his new app, Infinite Canvas. He said that Macworld’s smaller scale since Apple left — the event reportedly drew 44,000 attendees in 2007 when Steve Jobs introduced the first iPhone, compared to 22,000 attendees last year — offers people like himself a set of costs and benefits.

“At its height, Macworld was starting to take on some of the challenges of CES, where it was getting so huge it was hard for a small company to get visibility,” he said. “But now that we’re a smaller Macworld, it might be a little easier to get the word out.”

But Allen added it has become harder to find Apple engineers and evangelists to network and market products with, formerly a major benefit of the show. And smaller attendance numbers also mean fewer sales.

“Before, small developers could basically show up and pay for their booth through sales but now I’m not quite as confident that’s possible,” he said. “Now it’s more of a pure marketing expense for a small developer, although they have made some good strides to improve that, like opening up on Saturday for more consumers to come through.”

Still Relevant

Kent and other organizers, meanwhile, remain bullish on the potential and relevance of Macworld — or, as it’s known now, Macworld | iWorld. Mashable got a preview of the event as it was being set up on Wednesday, and it looks to be an “insanely great,” to borrow the term, showcase for lovers of Apple products. Its larger relevance in the market, however, will remain to be seen.

“If people recognize this is not a trade show — it’s a lifestyle event — then it will work for them on so many levels,” Kent said. “If we’ve made the experience of using these products even more pleasurable through education, product discovery, performance and everything else here, then we will have really done our job.”

What do you think? Three years after Apple’s withdrawal, is Macworld | iWorld still relevant to you? Let us know in the comments

Also, click through the slideshow below to check out Mashable‘s behind-the-scenes look at what to expect this year at Macworld | iWorld.

1. Building Macworld | iWorld

The main exhibit hall was still being put together when we got to visit. Viewed here as you enter, it will feature a mobile hub to the right and software stations to the left.

Click here to view this gallery.

Thumbnail image courtesy of All gallery images exclusive to Mashable unless otherwise noted.

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