Expo’s Ask the Editors session

On Thursday at Macworld Expo, Dan Frakes, Chris Breen, Jason Snell and I sat down to host an Ask the Editors session. The idea behind the session was simple: the four of us would sit on stage, accepting questions from the crowd on nearly any Apple- or Mac-related subject they wished to talk about. The inspiration for this session came from the MacMania cruises, where similar open-mike sessions have proven popular and entertaining.

Given that we’d never tried this before at Macworld Expo, none of us were sure how it would go—the general feeling was that it could either be really fun and interesting, or it could really be, well, neither of those things. So when the appointed hour arrived, we opened the mic not knowing at all what to expect—what would the first question be, something about rumored Macs or iPhones on other networks or the future of Macworld Expo? Not at all, although all of those topics did come up during the 75-minute session.

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No, the first question related to Macworld and the challenges of managing the integration of and/or transition between print and web publishing. This question led to a good conversation about the differences between writing for each medium, the future of print (does it have one?), if print goes away, is Macworld prepared for that eventuality, and other topics along those lines. We all seemed to agree that Macworld is well prepared for the future, regardless of whether magazines continue to exist or not. We’re already publishing first on the web, and then using that content each month to sort of package a “best of the web” version for print. We all hope magazines are around for a while—there are still times when many people prefer the printed word.

On a related subject, were asked about the electronic version of Macworld, which uses the (universally disliked?) Zinio Reader. Jason handled this one, and explained that he, too, has issues with the Zinio Reader, but that due to auditing requirements for our circulation figures, it was the only real viable option at present. We are, however, trying to find other ways to get electronic versions of the magazine out to our readers.

We also discussed the Apple TV—all four of us own one, and find it a useful and reasonably well-thought-out device. However, we agree that unless Apple makes some changes (such as including a Blu-ray player), it’s a product that will remain in a relatively small niche. We also doubt Apple will make such a change, as the Apple TV is clearly a device designed to help you purchase more content from the iTunes Store.

From there, we meandered through the previously-mentioned topics, including rumored Apple netbooks. Our consensus is that we’re more likely to see a “supersized iPhone” as opposed to a smaller MacBook—Apple has seemingly made it clear that it has a minimum screen and keyboard size in mind when considering a computer device. So if such a machine comes out, and it’s based on the iPhone’s OS, we also think it will need to support a Bluetooth keyboard for extended data input.

Finally, regarding the future of Macworld Expo, the general answer: “We’ll see.” It really depends on whether or not IDG World Expo can convince the other vendors to return. Someone asked if the attendance was down this year compared to last, and while we don’t have official figures, we think it might be down somewhat but it’s far from slow. The biggest problem, according to at least a couple of the vendors we spoke with, is that economic conditions have slashed budgets, so there aren’t any corporate buyers with big money to spend.

Overall, it was a very interesting session, and it seems the attendees found it informative and useful as well. If you were there, thanks for attending, and we hope we’ll have the chance to do it again next year.

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