It was a rough show. As usual, Boston obliged with heat and humidity so thick you had to wonder if the wetness on your skin was sweat or condensed essence of city. I wasn't the only one suffering from the Martian Death Flu, to judge from some of the complaints from the vendors, and people looked run down even before the end of the week.
Here's where I wish I could segue into a bit about how it was all worthwhile because I found the show itself exciting and innovative, and how crowds of people just mobbed all the booths. Unfortunately, I can't say that, because overall, it was a mediocre show.
Some booths were mobbed, such as WordPerfect's (part of the Novell Applications Group, if you want to NAG me about accuracy), but aside from the clever things that they've done with WordPerfect 3.1, it was clear that most people watched the demo for the free umbrella, the M&Ms, and a chance to rest their feet. Other booths fared worse, and although the crowds were present, they weren't on the whole excited crowds. Almost everyone I asked had similar opinions about the show, and the one person who said that he'd seen something super-cool wouldn't tell me what he'd seen. It couldn't have been all that obvious.
A number of companies that normally grace the aisles of Macworld declined to attend this year, most notably utility maker Now Software. Other companies that failed to appear included Farallon, GCC, DeltaPoint, and Kensington. All I can assume is that they decided the exposure simply wasn't worth the expense or trouble of attending such a general purpose show. The variety of products led to another quibble. It was downright difficult to find many specific companies at the show, and it seemed that you were always walking by something completely uninteresting. It would undoubtedly never happen due to marketing reasons, but it would be nice if the booths were roughly organized so that it was easier to find and compare products within a certain category.
Part of the problem was that no theme or amazing product carried the show. Last year in Boston was the Year of the Newton, and in San Francisco this year RAM Doubler wowed everyone. Probably the most interesting product of the show was Connectix's QuickCam, but since we covered that a few issues back (see TidBITS-235), it wasn't exactly news.
This isn't to say that there weren't good upgrades to existing programs, or some neat new products from small companies. There were supposedly several Doom clones (a popular and bloody arcade-style game for the PC), a number of companies showed Power Mac-native versions of their programs, and products such as Keep It Simple Software's solar panel for the PowerBook and Live Oak Multimedia's 4 Paws of Crab CD caught our eyes. We'll have more on these and other products. Mark Anbinder has assembled his usual Macworld Superlatives article below, but if you saw something that you found truly neat at the show and want to write about it, send me email to make sure we're not already planning an article.