CES lost Bill Gates last year and now Macworld Expo has lost its biggest draw... Apple itself.

Apple announced today that the Macworld Expo due to start on 5 January will be the last show at which the high tech company exhibits.

A company statement said: "Apple is reaching more people in more ways than ever before, so like many companies, trade shows have become a very minor part of how Apple reaches its customers."

That's as may be, but the annual face-off between Microsoft at the Consumer Electronics Show and Apple at Macworld is one of the highlights of the tech calendar.

No Jobs for the boys

As if to labour the point, the opening keynote of Macworld - usually delivered by Steve Jobs and some of his rock pals - will this year be given by Philip Schiller, Apple's Senior Vice President of Worldwide Product Marketing.

Apple claims to have been "steadily scaling back" on trade shows recently, including NAB, Macworld New York, Macworld Tokyo and Apple Expo in Paris. It would rather spend its money on Apple's Retail Stores, which more than 3.5 million people visit every week, and the Apple.com website.

The move raises several questions: can Macworld survive without Apple? And will Apple decamp to CES?

Apple's final keynote address will be held at Moscone West on Tuesday, January 6, 2009 at 9am. Macworld will be held at San Francisco's Moscone Center January 5-9, 2009, with CES starting on January 8.