Macworld 2011 Begins Today

I flew into San Francisco last night to get ready for my annual pilgrimage to the Moscone Center, to gather with other like-minded individuals to explore all things Apple (s aapl) at Macworld 2011 (the “Expo” has been dropped from the name this year). This is the second year Apple itself is not in attendance, and while the show still has plenty to offer, a keynote address by Sinbad simply doesn’t capture one’s imagination the way that a Steve Jobs product unveil does. Still, there’s plenty of excitement about the show and both Mac and iOS devices, accessories and software in the Apple community.

Macworld 2011 opens today with the User Conferences and the Industry Forum. The Expo floor opens Thursday to the public. As mentioned, keynote duties this year are being handled by comedian Sinbad: not the first person that comes to mind when contemplating Apple and geek culture. I thought David Pogue did a great job of playing directly to the Macworld crowd last year, and I wonder if Sinbad will be able to do the same.

Today’s Industry Forum is a first this year, bringing together analysts, media, and influencers. I’m looking forward to seeing Jason Snell of Macworld and John Gruber of Daring Fireball discuss Apple and its past successes and current trajectory. I’m also excited to see Mike Lawrence of Computer Using Educators talk about technology in education. Maybe we can get some good tools into the hands of those 100,000 new math, science, and technology teachers that were called for in the State of the Union.

From a consumer perspective, the Expo is probably the most exciting part of the show. Despite Apple’s absence, and the departure of several large vendors from the show floor, there are quite a few new vendors making their first appearance this year. The exhibit hall moving to Thursday through Saturday, rather than Wednesday to Friday, provides an extra weekend day should help push general attendance numbers higher than last year. Will new vendors see good returns on their investment? How do they view Macworld in comparison to CES, which gets more media attention and happens earlier in the month? Will they all come back next year?

My personal take is that the unspoken theme of the event overall for this year is “momentum.” It will be interesting to see how Apple’s breakthrough financial results convey momentum to the surrounding ecosystem. Are vendors optimistic? Still cautious in the general economic climate? What kind of momentum is developing in the Mac/iOS industry? These are all questions that I hope to find answers to in the next few days. What are some of yours?

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