A day at Macworld Expo 2010

I tried to make it to Macworld last year, but work got in the way; this year, I did a better job of defending my calendar (and having the expo include Friday didn’t hurt, either) and was able to make the trip.

IBM (mostly Lotus) was out in force — they were greeting attendees at the bottom of the escalator and promising “sweet tweets” at the booth. And they delivered, with a nice “candy bar” (which was completely depleted well before lunchtime). In addition to the calories, they had four pedestals set up, showing Lotus Sametime, Lotus Notes, and Lotus Symphony (all of which I happen to have on this very computer, imagine that!), as well as Lotus Connections (which lives on servers) and LotusLive (which lives in the cloud).

Microsoft had a big booth, too, but not much content — they were showing Office 2008 for the Mac but talking about Office 2011 (which will be ready late this year). I suspect that the show cycle didn’t match up with their development cycle as well as they’d hoped.

I suspected I’d be making a few impulse purchases at the show, and I was right — the first one was from 4iThumbs. It’s an iPhone screen protector with bumps, designed to help you learn the virtual keyboard; I played with one and decided it was worth gambling $15 (show price) to see if it can help me type more accurately on the phone. I haven’t yet actually installed it, but maybe I’ll get to it tonight.

Two years ago, I picked up an earbud Jack to keep my earbuds from tangling, but it wasn’t a good match for my FrankenBuds. So this year, when I saw the Budsock, I insisted on a tryout before parting with my $4 — the earbuds were barely small enough to fit, and it works. Recommended.

The last impulse purchase this year was a pair of RichardSolo 1800 external iPhone batteries (at two for $50, how could I resist?). I’ve already used one to get me through a long day of GPS mapping, and the other one’s on a truck to New Orleans. So far, so good — though I really don’t know why they added the LED flashlight and the laser pointer.

The only talk that I really wanted to see this year was at the OmniGroup booth — Merlin Mann gave a talk on “Advanced Secrets of the Omnifocus Ninja”. Since I’m using both the iPhone and Mac versions of OmniFocus to help manage my life and get things done, I thought it’d be an hour well-spent (or at least one which generated amusement), and I was right — Merlin’s demo has helped me get a handle on perspectives, one of the most useful features of OmniFocus. And Merlin’s schtick was funny, too. But I got my best tip before the presentation, talking to one of the real Omni people — use Yelp bookmarks to keep track of restaurants to try, rather than OmniFocus. A tool for everything, I guess.

Scanners were big — both Fujitsu and Neat had large booths (nearly adjacent), and there were a few other vendors. I had hoped to get a deal on a Fujitsu ScanSnap at the show, but they weren’t selling there; fortunately, Costco has them on sale this month, and one is wending its way to my door even as I type this.

Most of the iPhone app developers were in one area, packed four to a tiny table — it was crowded, to say the least. Microsoft was there with their Bing app, cheek-by-jowl with one-person outfits. I had an interesting conversation with the developer of Snoring U. Smule, the Ocarina people, were there with several amusing apps. And I spent some time catching up with John Wolpert of Cabulous, which would be a good tool to have if I ever needed a taxi in San Francisco. There were several GPS apps, and lots of picture-sharing tools, too.

Headphones were another popular category — Sennheiser and Shure both had huge booths; I was amused to see Shure was selling phono cartridges, even one for 78rpm records. And, of course, there were many vendors selling cases for MacBooks and iPhones — and iPads. I think I’ll wait until I have an iPad before I buy a case, though.

I wasn’t sure how well Macworld would do without Apple — but I think it came through just fine, and I hope to return next year.

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