As Alec Baldwin remarked in State and Main, "Well, that happened." Pretty much sums up this year's MacWorld Expo, which ended this week in San Francisco. As I have done for several years (my first ad was in 1985), I made the annual pilgrimage to Moscone Center to meet up with my fellow Mac-heads, eager to see what was happening with Apple and other software and hardware makers and just enjoy what the world might be like if everyone used a Mac, if only for a few days.
MacWorld's an interesting phenomenon. In the early days of the Macintosh (as we called it back then), it truly was the best way--if not the only way-- for Mac users to get a chance to talk with developers about their products, see the latest hardware (and modifications--back in the day you could buy kits so you could make your Mac look like it was made out of wood or marble or add obscene amounts of RAM--1 whole megabyte!) and, most importantly, talk with other Mac users about everything Mac. I remembered seeing one of the original Mac creators (and father of the scrollbar), Andy Hertzfield, just walking around with his backpack and a big grin, stopping and talking with other Mac users, giving tips and answering questions. MacWorld was very much like a (very) large user group and it helped foster the feeling of community that is very much a big part of being a Mac user today.
A few years later, in the 90s, we started seeing more and more "real" companies participating in the show. Companies like Adobe and Aldus (and yes, Symantec), had bigger booths and you started to see more and more mini- classes and seminars popping up both inside and outside of the show floor. You saw all kinds of monitors, printers and other peripherals starting to pop up and things started to feel just a bit more...corporate. Oh sure, there were still the frizzy haired hippies with their tie-dyed shirts, but more often than not they were talking to guys in suits and (gasp!) ties. The Mac was growing up--more and more businesses were seeing the light, to so speak--and MacWorld was adapting.
Message Edited by Sondra_Magness on 01-16-2009 04:48 PM
Years have passed since then and now MacWorld Expo now competes with the World Wide Web and, to a large extent, the Apple stores. As Phil Schiller remarked in this year's keynote, the Apple stores get 3.4 million visitors a week--that's 100 MacWorld expos a week. MacWorld used to be the place to get help with your Mac, to find the latest software, to talk directly to the developers of that software to discuss new features (and bugs). Now, of course, you can do all this on Mac forums and Mac developer websites. And for those craving personal interaction, you can always go to the Apple store and talk to an Apple Genius, attend one of the many training seminars they have and talk to the developers that give demos and presentations of their software. And you don't have to wait until January to do it.
For these reasons and more, many developers, including Apple and Adobe (and, yes, Symantec) are pulling out of MacWorld--as you know, this was Apple's last year. Apple's move made sense, to be sure; it just wasn't a good return on their investment, plus they had the added pressure to make often market-changing announcements each show, right after the holidays. While it made it a bit easier for Mac people to "wait until MacWorld" for the best hardware, you can only imagine how stressful this deadline was for the Apple software and hardware development teams.
Walking around the show floor this year, you definitely noticed some trends. First off, if you needed an iPhone or iPod case, this was the place to be. I have never seen more iPhone/iPod cases, speakers, stands and cleaners in my life. Second, there were many, many tools for sharing and redistributing media, further underscoring the Mac's great foundation for music and video (the lack of a media friendly MacMini continues to be a frustration for many Mac users out there). There were lots of smaller booths with various tools and software applications, from records management to photo editing to church presentation tools. The iPhone was everywhere, some of the most exciting and innovative application development is being done for the device. Apple's booth this year was massive, but really only featured demos of their new iWork and iLife suites with one table showing their mobile Macs (including their new 17" MacBook Pro). There were iPods and iPhones, too--but really, it was just like being at an Apple store...which was kind of the point, right?
So, this was Apple's last year, which made this expo more than a little poignant. Yes, they had pulled out of Boston years ago, but the San Francisco show was just...special. It was closer to Apple, so there were definitely a lot more people from Apple at the show, but there’s something inherently “Bay Area” about the Mac that is hard to put a finger on (though, if you have been to the show, you could definitely smell it). Yeah, we went to Boston and New York, but San Francisco was home. It was where the cooler announcements were made and where they had better parties. Walking through the aisles and talking to folks, you could definitely feel a question lingering in the air...was this going to be the last MacWorld? Sure, we are told there will be another show, but every booth I talked to said they would not be attending next year's show. Everyone sighed, "Without Apple, what's the point?" IDG World Expo insists there will be show next year (indeed, as I was writing, this I received an invitation to register for the 2010 show in my email), and I guess we'll see.
Personally, I get why Apple's leaving MacWorld, and I understand why everyone's assuming there will not be a show next year, but I have to admit, I am going to miss it. MacWorld was where a nerdy kid like myself could hang out with other nerds and talk about the Mac all day. It's where I got to meet old friends and catch up on what was happening at Apple and laugh about the early days (AppleTalk? FannyMac? Airborne? Cyrstal Quest? MonsterMac?). It's where I could talk to other developers and laugh at how were we all trying to the same kinds of issues, or pester a developer to fix a particularly annoying bug. Being around all these people--all these different kinds of weirdos and hipsters and corporate types and excited first timers--it reminds you of what is so special about the Mac in the first place: the people. The Mac was "the computer for the rest of us," and "us" kept coming back for more. As I was walking around the show with my friend Oliver, as I have done for years, I asked him, "Where are we all going to go? What's going to happen to all of us?" He just shrugged as we pushed our way through the crowd to check out the new 17” MacBook Pro.
It’s a nice machine. Lighter than we thought it would be, but in the end, just a Mac--nothing new,really, to see. Pretty much sums up the show itself.