With the release of the Macworld Encore CD containing presentations from the PowerTools Conference at Macworld Conference and Expo 2007 and 2008, I thought it would be nice to take a look back at this year's show. First, I'd like to say that in previous years I've gotten hold of some of the conference and presentation CDs and was very impressed with the quality and depth of information. You can view over 60 free presentations on the Macworld site. I watched Chris Breen's iPhone Super-Session and learned a number of new tricks. The PowerTools Conference DVD set is $149, and I can assure you it contains a lot of valuable information; but the 80 presentations probably represent over 100 hours of viewing time, so budget your life accordingly.
While the dust has finally settled and the luggage emptied from the January Macworld show, I'm sure it will be more than a year before we review all the product announced at the show. I've attended over 20 Macworld Expos and was overwhelmed with this show; it was easily the biggest show ever held. The show filled two halls with about 400 vendors showing their wares. There were plenty of new products in all categories. Next year is the 25th anniversary of Macworld Expo, so start your endurance training now.
Three of us from MacNN beat our feet into the ground perusing all the products over the week. We each picked a couple of products that we feel are worth a closer look from our readership. While these products may not have hit the radar of other sites that did "Best of Show" articles, we think they were worthy contenders and impressed us. Victor Marks, MacNN Podcaster and Galen Wood, News Editor contributed to this article. This was Galen's first trip to Macworld Expo and I don't think his head stopped spinning all week.
If a Macworld Expo's success is measurable by the planned company after hour events, we can be sure this show was one of the best ever held. As the independent producer of Hess Memorial Macworld Events List, I saw more small soirees than in any other year. I attended almost as many cocktail parties as press conferences. The best part is that many more of these parties were open to all the attendees, instead of the usual media-only restrictions. While initially I was not happy that the Macworld and Microsoft party cost $40 a ticket, the appearance of Devo made it worth it. All the concert attendees received an MS t-shirt, Devo cards, and even a Devo hat. You can't beat that for value. Now onto our picks for products not to miss.
Accessories and Specialty Products
The Always-On Wrap-Up ($19.95) and Millipod / Wrap-up Combo ($34.95) from Made-Products, Inc., are ingenious products that solve the shaking wrist syndrome in our ever decreasing digital camera size. This vendor was buried in the back of the Speck booth behind Apple's booth.
The Wrap-Up is simply a neoprene cover that actually screws into the tripod or monopod hole of your small camera. The cover stay put and out of the way when you want to use your camera and simply wraps around the camera when you put it away. The simple black, navy, zebra, or green sheet of neoprene secures with Velcro to cameras up to one-inch thick. No more do you lose your camera case or fumble with it while trying to get that once in a lifetime shot.
Always On Wrap-Up Closed
Always On Wrap-Up Open
The Millipod includes a built-in mini-tripod, which lets you put your camera on a variety of surfaces, including uneven ones, because you can pull the legs out as far as you need. The only thing missing is a level measure.
Admittedly, Lynda.com is in no way a new product, but each month new videos are posted on the site. Lynda.com is a training site in which you can purchase access to the whole training library that covers more than 394 topics for $375 or $250 a year or $25 per month. The Lynda.com Macworld booth was very large and included plenty of Macs where you could try out their variety of training videos and tutorials. The booth was packed at all times.
The training is generally excellent, although the quality can vary. I used the site in conjunction with another reviewer to learn new tips and tricks for Final Cut, FileMaker, and photo editing techniques. The videos are very well done, engaging, and cover just the territory you want to learn. Most trainings are divided up into segments, so that you don't overwhelm yourself with too much information at one time.
You can sample free trainings on the site or download their free video podcasts from the iTunes store. When you want to learn almost anything about any Macintosh software, including all the Apple products, and Mac OS X, this is the place you want to check first.
If your camera uses an SD card, the buzz on the show floor was all about the Eye-Fi. This SD card includes wireless technology and makes off-loading your pictures to your computer a simple matter of turning on your camera. You need to supply the wireless network and the Internet connection to use the device, but almost all Mac users have those these days. The announcement for Macworld is the addition of iPhoto support.
Eye-Fi Work Flow
The Eye-Fi is a true convenience. It solves the nonsense of camera specific USB cables, card readers, and the mumbo jumbo of needing the camera and computer in front of you at the same time. Take a picture, and if you're on the same network as the computer, it synchronizes with iPhoto. If you don't happen to be, the card waits until you get home. Eye-Fi eliminates the boring steps of getting photos into the computer.
Incipio is an interesting business and Victor's nominee for best in the iPod class. Incipio's booth included silicone cases, leather cases, and a few other neat products. All the leather cases have a silicone lining on the inside, to prevent scratches and wear on the inside of the case. The silicone cases some of the most affordable available.
One of the non-iPod case products was a set of adapter cables that connect to the duckbill power port on the Apple power bricks, and then connect to the International AC outlets. These solve the problem of the weight of the power brick pulling itself out of the outlet, a problem that Victor experiences every time he travels.
Victor's favorite is the $20 Orion, a leather sleeve with a pull-tab to ease removal of the iPhone. This simple design holds the iPhone without a bulky silicone case, and makes it easy to get at the phone when a call comes in.
Royal Blue Orion iPhone Case
Victor asked Incipio President how he could offer his products 10-20 dollars cheaper than everyone else. He explained, "We just don't see the point in taking advantage of people. We can deliver a good product at a good price and still make a profit."
Macworld is a funny show in some ways - you know it's a large show, with tons of vendors, but at the same time, there's a hometown feel to it. Often vendors in one booth inform you about products from another vendor. It's just neighborly.
For example, while at the Incipio booth, the owner introduced me to the owner of Switcheasy. Both companies make iPod and iPhone cases, but the Incipio President took the time to show me a product that wasn't even made by his company.
Another example is when the Ambrosia Software folks showed me the speakers that they used for their presentations at their booth. It turns out they got them from Audio Engine and pointed me in the direction of Audio Engine's booth, just a short walk away.
Audioengine makes some incredible sounding speakers. They're small home stereo speakers in size, but the sound blew me away. They have amplifiers in both speakers, and an outlet on the back which enables connecting an Airport Express base station in a very discreet way. They also use interesting building materials, 5/8" MDF (medium density fiberboard) or bamboo harvested in Russia.
A5N Bamboo Speakers
The A5N Bamboo speakers retail for $449.00 and the Caramel color is Carbonized Solid Bamboo with a piano-like high gloss finish. The internals include Kevlar woofers and silk dome tweeters, plus they are wireless ready. Also included are an iPod power charger port, two audio inputs, and built-in power amplifiers.