Macworld Expo New York: Looking Ahead

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Adobe won't have a booth at the Jacob Javits Center next week. Neither will Macromedia. And Apple's promotional machine, which kicked into high-gear last January with daily teasers about what Steve Jobs planned to unveil, has apparently gone into sleep mode.

But make no mistake -- Macworld Expo kicks off in New York next week with the same anticipation, speculation, and fascination that typically surround the week-long gathering of Mac users, software and hardware makers, and Apple executives. And despite a bleak economic climate that's been particularly trying for technology companies, expo organizers expect the number of attendees and exhibitors at the trade show to approach -- if not quite match -- last year's levels.

"We can't control the recession. That's out of our control," says IDG World Expo vice president Rob Scheschareg. "All we can do is focus on making our show better."

For the organizers of the biannual trade show, that means refining its conference offerings, expanding the areas on the show floor that cater to specific niches of the Mac market, and providing the usual array of feature presentations to spark interest among attendees.

Chief among those events is the not-so-insignificant matter of Apple CEO Steve Jobs's Wednesday July 17 keynote address, which kicks off the Expo. Jobs typically uses his time on stage to introduce new Mac products -- last year's New York keynote featured the unveilings of Quicksilver Power Mac G4s, the OS X 10.1 update, and faster iMacs.

Unlike the days leading up to last January's Expo keynote, in which Apple's Web site promised news "beyond the rumor sites" in advance of the flat-panel iMac's release, the company has kept mum about next Wednesday's Jobs speech. Other Mac developers aren't so reticent. IDG World Expo is promoting several expected product announcements from hardware and software makers -- everything from a digital video recorder from El Gato Software to an on-demand video and audio streaming technology from 21st Century Media to updates to existing from Extensis, Pixologic, and Stone Design.

"People always look to the Mac market," Scheschareg says. "The really innovative stuff seems to come out of the Mac market more often than not."

But will enough exhibitors be on hand at this Macworld Expo to showcase that innovation? The ongoing economic slump has led to first Macromedia and then Adobe dropping plans to exhibit their wares on the Macworld Expo show floor.

IDG World Expo, which is owned by Mac Publishing parent company IDG, expects 200 to 250 exhibitors at next week's trade show -- "about the same in terms of developer attendance from last year," Scheschareg says. That includes a number of first-time exhibitors, particularly in the digital video and audio segments, as well as long-time Mac software makers, such as Corel, who are increasing their presence at this year's event. The Special Interest Areas, which include booths dedicated to science and technology, education, and QuickTime products have been expanded to include exhibitors showcasing enterprise networking and service solutions. And while Adobe and Macromedia may not have booths on the show floor, Scheschareg expects both companies to be involved in various conferences next week in New York.

"Adobe is very much there. The marketing people aren't," he adds. "It's the same with Macromedia."

As for the conferences themselves, the New York edition of Macworld will see the return of the Power Tools conferences first introduced last January in San Francisco. In addition to offering two days of in-depth training in Photoshop, FileMaker Pro, or Final Cut Pro, the Power Tools conferences have expanded to include DVD Studio Pro and AppleScript. This year's Expo will also offer half-day sessions called MacLabs, with training in Flash 5, ActionScript, DVD Studio Pro, OS X, Final Cut Pro, and PDF production.

"People have said they want more hands-on training," Scheschareg says.

User conference registration is "down a little from last year," Scheschareg adds, though attendance at the Power Tools and Pro conferences is expected to be up. Pre-registration for the exhibits-only portion of Macworld Expo is in-line with last year's numbers from New York.

"The trends are positive at this point," Scheschareg says. "We feel very good when we compare Macworld Expo New York to other New York [technology trade show] events going on."

This will be the first Macworld Expo at the Javits Center since last September's terrorist attacks. Expo organizers say they're working closely with Javits officials on security for the event. Attendees should carry a photo ID with them at all times in addition to their Expo badges.

While event security may command a lot of attention from Macworld Expo organizers, Mac users and developers seem to be focusing on the show itself. "You get the sense that people want to get there," Scheschareg says. "The exhibitors want to get there because people are going to be there to buy. Attendees want to get there."

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