Macworld Expo: It's Here

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Greetings from Boston, where it's rainy and warm and there's some sort of Mac conference and trade show going on.

Much has been made about the long tale of Macworld Expo's east coast trade show, but from this vantage point I'm seeing a pretty nice, well-run conference with a small but lively trade show floor. No, it's not the Macworld Expo of old -- but neither are there tumbleweeds blowing through the Boston Convention Center.

Today I talked to a bunch of interesting folks. I had a great time talking to the very nice people at Belight Software, makers of the well-reviewed Business Card Composer. They're a small company from Odessa, Ukraine, and the three people from Belight are in the U.S. for the first time. Their new product, Mail Factory, promises to do for creating envelopes and mailing labels what Business Card Composer did for business cards -- namely, provide you with an easy-to-use, iLife-style interface.

Bruce Gee of GeeThree is on the floor demonstrating his excellent Slick Transitions & Effects, which have now reached volumes 7 and 8. Bruce is as surprised as anyone that he's gotten that many volumes of iMovie plug-ins, but the hits just keep on coming. This set includes a mind-blowing image-stabilization plug in, a morph effect, and some really cool OpenGL-based transitions, among dozens of others. The Slick packages are definitely worth looking into if you're an iMovie fan.

I saw several interesting PowerBook- and iPod-bag booths, including the cool work-in-your-bag designs of Shaun Jackson Design and the comfy and stylish bags from STM. I felt a little bad wearing my Brenthaven backpack while I talked to them, but hey -- diversity is a good thing, right? I've tried the STM backback and found it really, really comfy. I'm looking forward to giving Shaun Jackson Design's bags a try down the road as well.

I saw a bunch of other good stuff, with more to come. There's a new version of Parliant's PhoneValet. I caught a glance of (and plan to spend more time tomorrow with) JBL's two new speaker sets. The On Tour is a really, really small AAA-battery-powered set of stereo speakers for iPod users to take on the road. More impressively, the On Stage is a circular iPod "sound station" that uses your iPod's dock connector to keep it charged while using high-quality line-out audio to feed the speakers.

The kick-off event today was a conversation between David Pogue and four members of the original Mac team. It was an interesting time, although I have to say that although Jef Raskin is probably a brilliant guy, he's also a bit of an egomaniac. Every time he spoke, he was pointing out how important his work was. I'm sure he was brilliant and that many of his claims are true... but his attitude still rubbed me wrong. Which is too bad, since he came from UC San Diego, just like me. So did Bill Atkinson -- and he was a truly enjoyable panelist, as was Andy Hertzfeld, creator of the fantastic And it was great to hear from Jerry Manock, one of the key industrial designers on the Mac team.

Anyway, there's still plenty for me to do here. Still a lot of cool stuff to see. Do I wish the show floor was twice the size? Sure. Do I wish Apple was here? Sure. But as it is, things are still interesting. I'm glad I came -- despite all of this rain.

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