My week at the Expo

Believe it or not, last week marked the first time that I spent the entire week at Macworld Expo. In years past, I’ve flown in for the keynote, stayed through whatever conference sessions I was slated to speak at, and then flown home. This year, though, I got to take in the whole experience, and I must say, it was a great time…but also a great deal of work! As a fellow presenter told me one afternoon, “I love it when Expo rolls into town…and I love it just as much when the week is over!”

I took a fair number of pictures during the week, most of which are incredibly boring. That hasn’t stopped me, though, from compiling them into a photo album. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

The first thing I noticed was that the show floor seemed much more crowded and lively than it was last year. Some of that, to be sure, is because show organizers had everything in Moscone Center’s South Hall; last year, the games and smaller developers were in the north hall. But even with that adjustment, I personally think the show’s attendance was up greatly over recent years.

Clearly, a large part of that is due to the iPod. Despite Steve Jobs’ insistence that this was, after all, Mac world, iPod-related stuff was everywhere. I saw carrying cases and speaker systems and plug-in adapters for any feature you might think of, including blinking lights to use when running with an iPod at night (now there’s a safe thing to be doing; anyone up for a Darwin award ?). The iPod is clearly a very, very big business. I wonder when we’ll see the first iPod Expo?

Beyond the world of iPod, there were some interesting new software apps (the beta version of TypeIt4Me looks like a worthy competitor to my current fave Textpander ), but no real “oh my gosh that’s amazing!” products. The Apple booth was constantly mobbed, and both the Intel Macs look like winners. In particular, the MacBook Pro (not yet sure about that name) was amazingly quick compared to my 12-inch PowerBook G4/1.33GHz. I’m tempted, but my current laptop is meeting my needs just fine. By the way, I recorded a short movie (3.9MB) of the new magnetic plug in action. It’s not the greatest film (I was trying to record with about 500 people pushing and shoving to reach the machine), but you get a good sense for how it works. I know some people are nervous because this is yet another unique power adapter for an Apple laptop…but after too many yanked power cords on mine, I think it’s borderline genius.

I spoke on Thursday morning, giving my “Best of Mac OS X Hints” presentation. I’ve been giving this talk (with mostly new tips every time) for a few years now, and this year had the highest attendance by far—more than 450 people were in the room! Click the image at left for a short (1.5MB) QuickTime movie of what it looked like from the podium. This was shot before the room got completely full, but it was still quite exciting (and more than a bit scary!) to be standing in front of so many folks. If you were one of them, I hope I didn’t bore you too badly!

I also participated in the MacBraniac quiz show challenge, where our team (myself, Jason Snell, Rich Siegel of BareBones, and Tonya Egnst of TidBITS) defeated the challengers (Dori Smith, Sandee Cohen, Andy Ihnatko, and Scott Knaster) in ‘overtime’ (we were tied after all the standard questions). This means that I’m now undefeated in MacBraniac challenges, having also won (in overtime again) this past summer in Boston. Through both competitions, which probably means about 50 questions or so, I can proudly state I’ve answered maybe four of them all by myself—clearly the key to winning is getting chosen as a team member by a really bright team! If you’ve never seen one of these, they’re well worth the time; Chris Breen does a great job picking questions that make us look like we don’t know anything, and the teams, judges, and audience have a great time with the friendly competition. This year, there was even some free cake for members of the audience.

And now, something not really related to the show. The hotel I stayed at featured the most amazing vending machine I’ve ever seen— here’s a small portion of it. But instead of trying to describe it myself, it just so happens that Mathew Honan wrote about this very machine Wednesday for Playlist. Check out his writeup for all the details. Suffice it to say that, if you’re ever near the Argent (on Third Street, two blocks north of Moscone), it’s worth a visit to the lobby to see this machine.

In closing, it was a great week, but I’m quite happy to be back home now. While flying home, I was engaged in one of my favorite in-flight time wasters, taking pictures of clouds out the window. When I got home and checked the images, I found the image you see at right. The window did a great job of spreading the sun’s rays, leading to a somewhat surreal image of the neat clouds. If you like the pic, feel free to download either the 1920x1200 widescreen version or the 1024x768 version (just right for my 12-inch PowerBook). I don’t purport to be a great photographer, and the picture was taken with a relatively simple consumer camera ( Canon PowerShot SD400 ), but I really like the way it came out.

I guess I could sum up the week by saying I was most excited by the first two Intel machines Apple has rolled out, and I can’t wait to see what the next 12 months bring. Based on what we’ve seen so far, I think by this time next year, the overall speed of the Mac platform will have taken a gigantic step forward.

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