Apple was always going to have a hard job topping its Macworld Expo keynotes from the last couple of years – especially without charismatic CEO Steve Jobs at the helm.

Yet this year's keynote was disappointing by even the modest expectations of most pre-show rumours.

There was simply no sign of brand new Mac minis or iMacs, Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard failed to show up, and neither did an iPhone nano or iPhone pro.

Absent, too, was the rumoured Mac Home Server – which magically transformed itself into a Home Media Server over the last few days. There weren't even any new Mac Pros to crow about.

iLife, iWork and the 17-inch MacBook Pro

What we were left with were some modest changes to Apple's productivity suite, iWork '08, with a tokenistic nod to cloud-based computing with the iWork.com beta, and a niche 17-inch laptop with a non-replaceable battery.

Plus the very belated news that iTunes was finally catching up with rival online stores by going DRM-free.

Only iLife '09 offered some genuine thrills – the new Faces and Places features in iPhoto '09 are genuinely useful enhancements, while iMovie '09 finally got some of the in-depth features its widely derided predecessor sorely lacked.

Apple's Macworld Expo exit strategy

Perhaps all this was to be expected. Apple's hardly going to wow us with its best new products in an event it's simply not interested in attending any more.

Instead we get the feeling that Apple's deliberately holding back. It will have plenty of exciting things to show us, but at a time and a place of its choosing, in the weeks and months ahead.

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Now read 5 reasons Apple was right to ditch Macworld Expo

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