The rats weren’t actually fleeing from the doors of the Javits Centre during the Macworld Expo in New York this July, but the echoing halls were perfumed with an air of desperation. But Apple has a secret weapon when it comes riding the current tech slump, and that is the slavish devotion of its followers.

Where shows like Comdex attract corporate buyers, developers, manufacturers and the press — in other words people who have to be there, Macworld is a magnet for the followers of the cult of Apple. Before dawn on a humid, drizzly Manhatten morning, the crowds were already beginning to form, awaiting an audience with their idol — Steve Jobs — the founder and CEO of Apple.

Waiting for Jobs' keynote speech, was more like queuing to get a glimpse of a rock star, but rather than tour T shirts, fans are emblazoned with the Apple logo &mrule; one even went so far as to have the blue OS X symbol shaved onto the back of his otherwise bald head.

Apple likes to shroud keynote announcements in mystery, but I have to say I haven’t unravelled this one yet, as it seemed to have nothing much to show off about. When the highpoint of the speech is Jobs throwing a strop (and a digital camera) at a minion, when the offending item wouldn’t work, you know the company is in trouble.

And its not just inanimate objects Apple was treating badly, no matter how hard we looked we couldn’t find anyone with a positive word to say about it. The press were either denied interviews, or grudgingly granted them with the air of a sovereign bestowing a great honour on an unworthy subject.

Developers complained that they were struggling to create programs for OS X as Apple insists on keeping the code a secret, and yet beratesthem when applications are not ready. While users were disappointed that there was nothing outstanding added to the hardware lineup – G4 processor speeds remain firmly under the 1GHz mark and the iMacs were not given the long-expected face lift they so urgently need if sales are to pick up.

It is not often that I would say that I am grateful to be a PC journalist, especially as a long-time Mac devotee, but I have to admit that I was glad to be an outsider at Macworld. As Mac fanatics endlessly debated where it had all gone wrong in New York, I was proud that PC Advisor takes a rather more rational approach. To us computers are tools, we want to help our readers to choose the best one to do the job, but we don’t feel personally affronted if Intel fails to get a new processor out, or if Microsoft delays the launch of XP.

It is a well known fact that owning a Mac isn’t like owning a PC; it is a lifestyle decision, a choice to go against the flow and assert your individuality on the desktop. While this may be commendable, it is painful to see what happens when the company to whom these users have pledged their troth lets them down.

PC users almost expect to be let down, as more often than not we are buying beige boxes direct from vendors we don’t know from Adam. Indeed, some PC users take a certain perverse pleasure in getting under the hood and fixing the problems left for them by sloppy manufacturers. But Mac users expect the best, and when Apple failed to deliver, it was a sad day in New York.