Resellers, manufacturers and developers complain that they have made strategic plans around this show. Without it, these plans become a colossal waste of time and money, according to most exhibitors contacted by Macworld.
Mary McNulty, public-relations manager at Epson told Macworld: "What is Apple's goal? This decision makes things a lot more difficult from a manufacturer's point of view."
Andrew Haji-Hannis, marketing manager of printer manufacturer QMS (UK) agrees: "I think Apple is doing resellers and manufacturers no favours at all. We've always supported Apple's products and systems. Other companies would like to support Apple, but at this moment we have no idea where they stand. If they can't share their plans with us, we'll have to look at how much we support them."
Epson's McNulty continues the theme: "It's a fiasco. How dare they treat their customers and business partners like this. It's ridiculous - an absolute déja vu of last year's fiasco. Customers, vendors ... the whole Mac community is being abandoned again. It's disgusting."
La Cie, manufacturer of storage solutions, had planned to attend the show as one of Apple's development partners, exhibiting a new range of USB and FireWire-based solutions within the Apple exhibition area. Herve Petit, marketing communication director at La Cie says: "If Apple pulls out, we'll have to find another partner, and will have to reconsider our position within the show."
Fiona Coughlan, managing director of Macromedia UK, told Macworld: "We understand it's an American decision. On a local level there is very little Apple UK can do. Why is it Apple's strategy not to do shows in one of their leading countries?"
Resellers aren't happy either. A spokesman for Mygate computers says: "It's been an utter joke. It's so ironic that it could happen again. Last year, when Apple pulled out, we wanted to pull out. We could not; our contract was made, so we lost money. I had a meeting about the show earlier this year, and asked for guarantees that Apple would attend. I was reassured they would. We signed a contract, and now they're out again. I don't want to go if Apple's not there."
The organisers of Apple Expo - themselves caught unaware by this story - sent out emails to the exhibitors this morning at about 11:30am an hour and a half after Macworld broke the story in the UK. In the letter, they apologise to exhibitors that "You [the exhibitors] have not heard this news from us".
McNulty says: "This smacks of last year. The whole event has been sold on Apple's support. This was the big Apple Show - one of the big five yearly shows. We were told it was being reconfigured as really important. We are not happy with this decision. We were told that Apple had booked double the space. What's going on?"
What indeed. The reaction from across the UK Mac community is not subdued and does not look likely to go away. At all levels of the community here the decision raises huge questions as to what Apple's long-term goals are. Does the UK matter to Apple? Do Apple's European customers count? After the fiasco of the Power Mac G4 (see "Apple UK clarifies G4 pre-orders"), can recent converts to the Apple platform sustain their loyalty? What of the time wasted by numerous developers, resellers, manufacturers, and media partners in putting their strategic plans together around this show? What too of the needs of the users, who would love to feel part of the community?
Industry sources, particularly those on the periphery of the Macintosh world are confused too. How can developers port products into the Macintosh platform when they don't know where Apple is going. How can new manufacturers build relationships with a company that does not keep its promises.
The Expo organizers were unavailable for comment, but it is clear that they have been left in the cold as much as the exhibitors.
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