Cue wild yelps and cheers from the Mac crowd: MacWorld 2010 kicks off today! Excitement! Adventure! Multitouch! And really ... okay, nothing that special. Without the participation of Apple, the company behind the brand for which the convention is named, it's going to be a subdued scenario.
MacWorld's Web page has a splash advert for what's going to be the hottest topic of conversation at the event: The iPad. It's promoting an "iPad special event" on Saturday February 13 which will apparently take "you deep inside the iPad from Apple," which sounds very tempting. This one-off will be hosted by none other than MacWorld's VP and editorial director, who'll steer a group of "special guests" as they reveal all about the wondertablet. And there's even a chance to win one--"product to be delivered when shipping available (estimated 3/29/10)."
And right there, exposed for all to see, is the biggest issue facing MacWorld this year. Apple's not attending in an official capacity. So you can expect this iPad  special event to be a condensed version of the same kind of analysis you'll read about the iPad here and elsewhere on the Web, only presented in person. Apple's not saying anything officially about the device, you see ... so the MacWorld guys will be operating on the same rumor and leak basis as everyone is. And, let's be honest, there's not going to be a single iPad there for you to play with.
Without Apple, MacWorld is having to center on other members of the Apple community--developers, coders, peripheral makers, power users, writers and journalists (DaringFireball's writer John Gruber has even finagled a deal  with the show so his fans can get limited access to some events for free). At 9 a.m. today, for example, there's a special talk-show format event dubbed "Late Night with David Pogue" hosted by The New York Times's tech writer himself, where you can expect some very informed Apple chatter ... and a song from Pogue himself (worry not that it'll be a horrifically embarrassing geek-out: Pogue user to play piano on Broadway.)
And at 2 p.m. self-professed Mac fan and movie-star Kevin Smith will take the stage to talk about technology in movie-making, the indie film business, and, of course, Apple stuff.
That's quite a haul, really. Having a community-centered MacWorld is, of course, no bad thing: Apple's extremely loyal fan community is legendary, and perhaps this year's MacWorld will have a sense of community that is developed more from within, rather than being leveraged off Apple's own technology demonstrations and talks. But it's undeniable that without Jobs , Schiller, and co., the event is going to lack a little sizzle .