Macworld Expo opens today in San Fransisco and for the first time since the event's inception, one company is conspicuous by its absence... Apple.
Much has been made of the no-show at the commercially-run venture, and we're sure conspiracy theories will abound, but the simple fact of the matter is that Apple doesn't do trade shows because Apple doesn't need to do trade shows.
You have only to look at the millions of pages of free advertising the Cupertino company gets every time a rumour about a new Apple product is created, let alone when that new product actually arrives, to realise that the company's marketing machine is self-perpetuating and incredibly powerful.
Some commentators bemoan the fact that Apple creates such a buzz around its launches that it has an unfair advantage. But the buzz is not created by Apple. The very fact that Steve Jobs keeps an iron grip on information surrounding new launches, releasing absolutely zero information into the public domain until he strides stageward for his evangelistic keynotes, forces tech journalists to grab every microscopic rumour, every tiny piece of industry banter, every blurry photo allegedly snapped in a Chinese factory, and blow them out of all proportion
Few people would deny that they were - by the time the dust had settled and everyone had wandered home excited and disappointed in equal measure - just a tiny bit sick of the Apple iPad and its baying media circus.
No other company generates so many column inches of copy for its new products because the people who write the copy are well aware that people want to read them. One tech site editor recently proudly announced, after the launch, that he had 20 new iPad features lined up, despite never having seen the offending item.
As you might have noticed, we tend to think a little more pragmatically about the whole issue. We reported on the launch, we gave our opinion on what we thought based on the launch, and we'll let you know what we think of the device once we lay our sweaty mitts on the real thing.
In the past, Macworld has been a useful platform for Apple. During the company's rennaissance, having a captive audience of thousands of adoring Macolytes - conveniently gathered together by a friendly publication and its exhibition partners - would have been a boon to the company.
But a few things have changed since then. For a start, the Internet has become the biggest marketing tool known to man. No-one needs to trudge off to a smelly exhibition hall with warm beer and overpriced food to find out what's new in the world of tech any more. Anything of any note announced at a trade show will be 'on the wires' within minutes. Ten years ago you would have had to wait up to six weeks for favourite magazine to be published before you were in the loop.
Probably the biggest change for Apple, however, is that is now has giant temples to the cult of St Eve in every Mall in every country in the world. As Phil Schiller once said, "Every week, 3.4 million customers visit an Apple store around the world… That's 100 Macworlds each and every week.”
Apple pays millions upon millions of pounds to build, maintain and staff these churches of fruit-flavoured consumerism and from what we have seen, and indeed the sales figures, that's money well spent.
Spending money on expensive trade shows would preaching to the converted. After all, if you're at an Apple expo it's a pretty safe bet that you're an Apple fan.
There will, of course, be some disappointed people. The people who queue up for hours on end to secure the best seats at every Steve Jobs keynote. But these are the same few deranged idiots who whoop and holler at the man's every word and, as such, should treated with utter contempt rather than sympathy.