Our friends at Macworld magazine and Mac Publishing announced five Best of Show winners at the IDG Macworld Conference and Expo 2005 in Boston. To be eligible, products had to be introduced at the show itself (or recently enough that they generated excitement amongst attendees) and be available for hands-on evaluation by the Macworld editorial staff. Not surprisingly given the success of Apple's iPod, winners included products aimed at the digital music market.
The winners are:
Harman Kardon's Drive + Play, scheduled to be available in September for $200 (plus several hours of installation time if you want to hide the cables, or an estimated $100 to $150 in installation costs), is an in-car iPod music system featuring a backlit LED display which lets users see the contents of their iPod and control the "Brain," the interface which connects to the iPod (and charges it while driving). Most interesting is the LED-illuminated controller, whose rotating wheel and four buttons mimic the iPod's click-wheel. A 3.5 mm output jack plugs into a car stereo, although the Drive + Play can also broadcast to any unused FM frequency as well as route audio from other devices such as a satellite radio. It demoed well in a fancy BMW, though many people were also quite taken by the car's color LCD navigation screen.
Parliant's PhoneValet combined hardware/software product turns a Mac into a call center, with features like voicemail and call history (see "PhoneValet, Can You Get That?" in TidBITS-699 for a review of the initial release). Two new enhancements take PhoneValet two steps further. The PhoneValet Anywhere server software enables PhoneValet Message Center 3.0 users to access voicemail messages, reports, logs, and phone books from anywhere via the Internet. PhoneValet Podcast is an extension to PhoneValet Message Center 3.0 which includes tools for recording phone conversations and later editing them via VST-enabled editions of BIAS's Peak Express and SoundSoap 2, creating a powerful solution for podcasters and others who conduct phone interviews or record events via phone for later broadcast or publication.
The inexpensive The Print Shop for Mac 2.0 from Software MacKiev will be shipping this August, and it starts to take on the big boys of page layout by introducing new tools like gridlines, rules, and snap functionality, plus a new project window which enables users to group items into four predefined categories. The Print Shop also gains drag & drop functionality with Apple's iPhoto, Mail, and other programs, and draws on the capabilities of Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger's Spotlight and Core Image technologies.
SketchUp 5.0, from Last Software, is an architectural design tool for Mac OS X. The new version expands libraries, offers augmented sketching tools, improves file import/export, and adds a collection of "sandbox" tools for landscape designers.
Transpod for iPod shuffle is an FM transmitter for Apple's iPod shuffle portable music player which can tune to any available FM frequency. It plugs into a car's cigarette lighter or accessory jack, simultaneously plays music and charges an iPod shuffle via USB, and offers a 3.5 mm stereo output. The small size of the iPod shuffle may make the Transpod for iPod shuffle more successful than the previous Transpod, which was awkwardly designed and clumsy to use.