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Macworld Exit Opens New Doors for Apple

Updated from 11:03 a.m. EST

Apple (AAPL)'s lack of new products at this year's Macworld Expo, although shocking to some, signals some major changes in the secretive tech giant's long-term marketing strategy.

Despite rumors of a new Mac mini, an iPhone nano and even a media server, Apple made just a handful of product introductions at Macworld on Tuesday, including an ultra-thin 17-inch Macbook, new iTunes pricing and some software enhancements.

Apple recently sent shockwaves through the tech industry when it announced that 2009 would be its last year to exhibit at Macworld, where it has traditionally showcased its latest technologies.

The company's CEO, Steve Jobs, has also been conspicuous by his absence from the San Francisco event this week, with Apple marketing chief Philip Schiller giving the opening day keynote address.

Jobs, whose health has been under intense scrutiny from investors and the media during recent months, usually delivers the Macworld keynote speech, so his decision to delegate this role underlines a change in Apple's strategy.

Apple now claims that trade shows offer relatively little access to its broader customer base, and the tech firm has scaled back its involvement in the NAB broadcast show, Macworld events in New York and Tokyo, and the Apple Expo in Paris.

With more than 3.5 million people visiting its retail stores each week, and more than 100 million accessing its Web site, Apple clearly feels comfortable stepping away from the conference arena. And why not? The average iPod or iPhone user is more likely to get a tattoo than hang with the conference show geeks.

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