Once, Macworld was the place where one company's technology was born anew. For over a decade, Steve Jobs introduced the latest Apple products here, including the iMac, iBook, iTunes, Safari, the iPhone, and the MacBook Air.

Today, at least by comparison, Macworld is a bit of a wasteland. Dubbed "iWorld, The Ultimate iFanEvent" for the next three days, the floor of Moscone Center West in San Francisco is littered with accessory vendors and app creators, but that's about it. Executives of Kickstarter-funded companies demo iPhone cases and rechargeable battery packs to attendees and wholesalers alike, and if you came with cash in your pocket, you can often make a purchase on the spot.

What you won't buy, or really see, is anything with Apple's latest, perhaps greatest accessory technology. It's been nearly a full year since Intel's Thunderbolt port was integrated into the MacBook Pro, and yet we didn't see a single creative Thunderbolt add-on even in the supposed cornucopia of accessories at the show. (Western Digital's My Book Thunderbolt Duo did appear, but no price or release date were revealed.) We'd previously heard from peripheral vendors that Macworld might be the time to show off the I/O gadgets they'd been cooking up, but there wasn't so much as a simple USB 3.0 or Ethernet adapter to show off.

The products at Macworld are mostly useful items, and there are plenty of Apple-flavored curiosities to be found, but we were hard-pressed to find anything new. Macworld stands in the shadow of January's much bigger Consumer Electronics Show, though, so perhaps that's to be expected. Looking around Moscone West one last time before we departed, and reflecting on three years without Apple in a row, it's clear that Macworld can't be thought of as a news event any more. It's a place for deals to be made, for vendors to hawk their wares, and for "iFans" to get their fill of whatever communal spirit of Apple remains at the show.

Dieter Bohn contributed to this report.