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The announcement Tuesday is similar to a move by which the Mac maker pulled out of the east coast Macworld conference several years ago following a disagreement with show organizer IDG, which sets the dates and locations for the events.
"This change is bound to once again raise questions about Jobs health," Needham & Co. analyst Charles Wolf told clients in a report on the matter. "Our reliable sources, which we spoke with this fall, indicated that Jobs is cancer free."
Instead, the analyst equated the move to an extension of a recent strategy that has seen the Cupertino-based company more frequently introduce new products at its own events, like the two held this fall that gave way to new iPods and Mac notebooks.
"I think Apple wants to get away from the tyranny of MacWorld where it is forced to introduce new products on IDGâs schedule, rather than its own," he said.
Keith Bachman, an analyst with BMO capital, had similar thoughts on the matter. In a note to his own clients, he said he believes Jobs will remain Apple's chief executive at least through the 2009 calendar year.
Instead, the analyst sees the charismatic chief's absence from this year's conference as a sign that the company has nothing special to announce and therefore has decided to scale back expectations ahead of time.
"We believe that not having Mr. Jobs lead the 2009 MacWorld does suggest [...] that this event will not be terribly meaningful," he said. "Hence, the downside in the stock for a disappointing MacWorld is probably realized near-term rather than at MacWorld."
Shares of Apple were trading down $7.09 (or more than 7%) to $88.34 in late morning trading.