Without Steve Jobs attending next month's Macworld keynote, it's safe to say Apple won't be making a huge splash in January.
Before Tuesday's announcement that Jobs would skip the annual Macworld keynote, the usual rumor mill was in full swing, with speculation about Apple Netbooks, iPhone Nanos, and the like. The news that Phil Schiller, senior vice president of worldwide marketing, will be giving the keynote (the Philnote?) brought all that speculation to a halt.
Apple made it pretty clear yesterday that it is not expecting this Macworld to pack a punch. "It doesn't make sense for us to make a major investment in a trade show we will no longer be attending," Apple spokesman Steve Dowling said. As such, that means Apple is not likely to spend the time and effort required to put on one of Jobs' patented addresses, with the elaborate demonstrations and Keynote presentations that accompany such an address.
So what might we expect? New Mac Minis and an upgraded iMac are possible, given the length of time since new models were introduced and a few early reports. And a safe bet is a 30-minute demonstration of the capabilities of Mac OS X Snow Leopard, which is expected to appear in the first quarter of the year.
But do not expect anything groundbreaking to emerge from this year's Macworld, which, truth be told, was probably going to be the case, no matter who gave the keynote. Jobs' absence merely confirms that Apple is mailing in this Macworld, the last in which the company plans to participate.
One potential surprise would be Jobs making any kind of appearance. The announcement immediately set off speculation about his health, though nothing has emerged over the last 24 hours to suggest that it has taken a turn for the worse.
Apple could get a lot of mileage out of having Jobs swap roles with Schiller, playing the goofy capable-assistant role usually reserved for Schiller. And it would allow the Mac-faithful to serenade Jobs one last time; while many people come to Macworld for the products and the community, an awful lot of people come for no other reason than to see Jobs speak.
Even if Jobs just sat in the front row, as executives such as COO Tim Cook and various members of the board of the directors do during a typical Stevenote, it would go a long way toward reassuring the Mac community and Apple shareholders that Steve is fine. Apple's stock is down almost 7 percent Wednesday, following yesterday's news, as investors ponder the impact of a January without Jobs.