To keep it's educational foot in the door, Apple offers a special deal at the Expo to vendors with educational software and hardware. At this Expo the education products were cloistered in the far southeast corner of the show floor in an area called the Education District, the low-rent district that goes for around $1700 for a spot, as opposed to the $TK that vendors usually have to pay. Even though this is still much more expensive than the education vendors would pay at an education show, which would typically cost between $500 to $1000, it's a good enough deal to entice over a dozen vendors to strut their stuff at the Macworld Expo. Apple also throws in an iMac for only $500 and a few other bonuses.
One of the vendors coaxed to the Expo by this sweet deal is Leboe & Grice Multimedia ( www.leboe-grice.com ). They have a steady stream of people crowding around their iMac to see their new ecologically-correct CD-ROM Forests For Us All (about $50 without teachers' guide, about $100 with teachers' guide). This software lets students from 8th grade up explore ten different forest regions under the premise of earning a "sustainability certificate." You get the certificate by gathering information without destroying the environment of the places you visit. Unlike Saturday-morning cartoons that make loggers into villains and ecologists into saints, this software represents both of those perspectives on how to use the forest, as well as many other perspectives (see Campfire Friends).
Campfire Friends - Gather round the Forests For Us All campfire to hear how different people use the forest wisely.
I left the lush forests of this Expo booth and surrounded myself with the sounds of music at Harmonic Vision (800-644-4994). Rather than focus on learning a particular instrument, their program Music Ace leads you through 24 lessons about music theory. Music Ace 2, shipping this Spring, will offer 24 new lessons, ranging from standard notation to syncopation to harmony. This program is appropriate for 8 year olds and adults alike.
If you like your software with the type of cute cartoon figures common in Japanese comic books, you might be drawn to Smile Town, from Gakugei ( www.gakugei.co.jp ). Full of characters that resemble happy marshmallows, this language learning software is aimed at 2 to 7 year olds. What I liked about seeing this software the most was that during the demo of the product I won a box of cookies for correctly guessing what object the program would use to represent the letter Z. (It was the number zero, for those of you just dying to know.)
The most eye-catching products are those at the kidBoard ( www.kidbaord.com ) booth, the only company at the show that can really rival that hot-selling BarbieCam . They offer the JamCam, a digital camera aimed at the younger set that both boy and girls can get their heads around. It takes up to six pictures at a resolution of 320 by 240 pixels. But you can only use it with a computer with a USB port, such as that blueberry iMac you got for Christmas. It will be available for USB Macs in June and will cost about $100.