Apple caused a stir yesterday when the company made two announcements concerning the upcoming Macworld Expo.
First, Apple said it has no plans to continue its participation at the conference following this year. Secondly, they said the keynote address will be delivered by Senior VP Philip Schiller, and not CEO Steve Jobs, whose annual appearance at the event has become legendary.
The move has ignited a firestorm of speculation about Jobs’ future with Apple. Rumors about Jobs’ health have run rampant since he appeared earlier this year looking less-than-healthy.
Whether or not Jobs’ health is compromised, it seems plausible that the company is slowly rolling out a succession plan. In October, the company held a press event in Cupertino. During that presentation, Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook took the stage to introduce the new Apple notebook lines.
Cook was notably dressed in Jobs’ trademark jeans and black shirt.
Putting Schiller center-stage may be the continuation of an attempt by the company to showcase the capable, competent staff who back up the charismatic Jobs. Apple’s share price is uncomfortably tied to shareholders assumptions about Jobs, his health and his continuance in leadership. Soothing that panic reflex would be a commendable goal.
Speaking of volatility, Macworld itself has been a frequent catalyst for kneejerk reactions in Apple’s share price. Each year, shareholders speculate about the products which will or will not be introduced at the conference, and whether or not they meet the expectations of the Apple faithful.
Message discipline is one of Apple’s key strengths. They have been enormously successful at controlling the release of information to maximize the effect the media has on their success. They have increasingly hosted their own events on their own schedule to promote new product introductions and improvements. Discontinuing the one yearly event where they have the least control is entirely consistent with their communications strategy.
John Siracusa at ArsTechnica has an interesting take on how this move- turning your back on an event packed with brand-loyal disciples, is a sort of boldness that we’ve seen time and again from Apple.