This Week in Tech: A Dull CES, but (Gasp!) an Even Duller Macworld!

Published on January 5, 2009
by Kara Swisher

BoomTown is not saying it’s going to be like watching grass grow.

But 2009 is not exactly getting off to a rousing start this week–with a pair of definitely underwhelming blockbuster tech events taking place that already have more of an air of whimper than of bang to them.

That would be the Consumer Electronics Show, the annual egregious gadgetfest in Las Vegas, and the final appearance by Apple (AAPL) at Macworld in San Francisco.

Of course, while CES tries to fend off the spate of no-one-is-going-to-CES stories–well, I am!–the absence of his digital Holiness and Apple CEO Steve Jobs at Macworld has really generated most of the glumness.

[UPDATE: In a public letter, Jobs says he has a “hormone imbalance” and will stay on as CEO as he recovers.]

Still, the keynote cancellation by Jobs–which started off a new round of is-he-sicker? rumors–is profoundly depressing for Macworld.

After all, it was only two years ago that he practically blew out every geek mind with the introduction of the iPhone there. (See a part of that masterful performance in a video below.)

Thus, it falls to Apple’s SVP of Worldwide Product Marketing, Phil Schiller, to be thrilling–with exactly what, it is still unclear. Rumors abound, none of which are very promising (New iLife and iWork! New Mac mini! Zzzzzzzz).

There is, of course, the vain hope that Schiller will end his speech by uttering Jobs’s patented “one more thing” line, wherein Jobs will walk out (without a walker!), wave and create what would be a genuine frenzy, especially since the last sighting of him was at a yogurt store.

As to CES, there is no big or new product trend to point to, except rumor of a possibly exciting intro of a touchscreen smartphone from Palm (PALM) with a slide-down keyboard. Wheeeee!

Some keynote speakers include Sony (SNE) CEO Sir Howard Stringer, Ford Motor Co. (F) CEO Alan Mulally, Intel (INTC) Chairman Craig Barrett and Cisco (CSCO) CEO John Chambers.

Interestingly, the absence of former Microsoft (MSFT) head Bill Gates at CES–long announced, after more than a dozen times there–caused no weeping and rending of garments, as did Jobs’s nonappearance.

In his place, there will be a keynote by the software giant’s CEO, Steve Ballmer, in which no major announcement seems to be coming.

Still, one can dream, and I desperately hope Ballmer will say “one more thing” and out will come Yahoo (YHOO) CEO Jerry Yang to announce a big honking search deal, finally putting to bed one of 2008’s longest-running soap operas.

What can I say? This is tech and, for us (okay, me, at least), that would be exciting.

Speaking of gripping, I dare you to watch this 2007 iPhone intro performance by Apple’s Jobs and not be deeply impressed by his stylings:

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