Some of us were talking last night about the lukewarm reviews that this Macworld has received. The whole conversation reminded me of some things I learned in art criticism back in college.
The difficult thing about judging art is that by definition it’s usually different than anything else you’ve seen. So what I was taught to do is try to figure out the intention of the artist then evaluate how effectively he or she communicated that intention in the work. Of course you can add your personal views on the matter, but those views shouldn’t be the only criteria in judging the art.
One of the reasons why I rarely lay heavy-handed criticism on a technology event is because I apply this same method to my reporting. (Good thing I’m not a political reporter, because I believe that those intentions are often misguided to begin with.) The other thing I try to bring to my reporting is experience from other recent events.
For example, if you want to talk about a conference that was a miserable failure, forget about Macworld and take a look at the recent Seybold in SF. The expo floor of past Seybolds once rivaled Macworld in size and intensity. This year’s Seybold in SF sported a tiny, miserable expo, uninspiring sessions, and I can’t even remember who spoke at the keynote. The intention was to redefine the conference into a different type of event from past Seybolds, but still retain the energy of the publishing industry. Those intentions did not manifest into a good performance. I couldn’t stand being there.
This Macworld is a completely different animal. My belief is that much of the heavy-handed criticism stems from peoples’ personal expectations not being met. For example, Apple or IDG never intended to unveil a $99 iPod. Those expectations were set by the rumor sites, not by the mother ship.
Plus, it’s clear that Apple doesn’t want to be constrained by tradeshow schedules for all of its announcements. I’m pretty sure Steve wants to roll out products in 2004 on his terms, not those of others. This should be an interesting year that way with surprise releases greeting us when we least expect it.
When you look at Macworld SF 04 and Apple for the coming year, consider taking a look at what their plan is, not our individual hopes or expectations. And then, at the end of this year we can evaluate how well Apple managed its resources and how well it satisfied its customers. If the plan doesn’t work, surely there will be plenty of commentary articulating why.
One last note. I can tell you that it is very difficult right now to persuade technology companies to purchase expo space at tradeshows. Many are still tight-fisted with their expenditures and are not willing to spring for big booths with lavish giveaways. The companies that showed up and supported Mac platform this year deserve your attention. It’s easy to ride the wave in good times. But the companies that made the commitment this year are serious about providing the products that we want and need.