Macworld Expo New York 2002 Diary
My post-Macworld Expo coverage generally aims at analysis, noting significant trends or themes that help us understand the state of the Mac industry and where it’s going. This year, however, I’m not going to do much of that, because I’d feel as though I was rewriting last year’s analysis of the New York show. In short, attendees were surprisingly numerous (though down about ten percent from last year, a negligible dip considering last September’s terrorist attacks on New York) and seemed happy and upbeat. The number of exhibitors was down, but the ones with whom I spoke were happy about the traffic and direct sales. And just like last year, there weren’t any truly amazing products, although a number of the more interesting ones appear in our traditional superlatives article in this issue.
Instead, join me on a ride through the events of my week, complete with a pair of appearances at Apple Stores sandwiching the three days of Macworld Expo. I hope you’ll get a better feel for what a Macworld Expo week can be like for me and see how much happens at the Expo beyond the show itself.
Sunday, July 14th — I began with a three and a half hour drive from Ithaca, NY to the Apple Store in West Nyack, NY for a "Meet the Experts" presentation on iPhoto. At the Palisades Mall, a monstrous conglomeration of stores with an abysmal directory, I found the Apple Store and introduced myself to Scott behind the Genius Bar. He clearly knew his stuff, as did the other Genius Bar staffers I spoke with, although he said the downside of the position is that people constantly ask if he’s a genius. (Answer: Yes, with a capital G and a TM sign.) The presentation itself got off to a rocky start, with someone in the back immediately asking a detailed iPhoto troubleshooting question. Luckily we managed to get past that quickly, and I showed off iPhoto basics and passed along tips for using it well. Although many audience members were clearly new Mac owners, they asked amazingly good questions, and as I neared the end of my presentation, I realized I’d been talking for nearly two hours.
I packed quickly and jumped back in the car to drive another hour into New York City to have dinner with my grandparents. Then, I drove for another hour to my aunt and uncle’s house in Staten Island, where I chatted for a while before retiring to catch up on email. Exhausted, I finally went to bed around 1 AM.
Monday, July 15th — Monday is TidBITS production day, so I spent my waking hours editing the issue and trading email with other editors and contributors. The New York Times ran a short piece about our spam filter travails (see "Email Filtering: Killing the Killer App" in TidBITS-367), so I also spent some time on correspondence regarding that. Before I knew it, my relatives had returned home from work, and it was time for dinner. They went to bed around 10 PM, and once again, I stayed up until about 1 AM, finishing a final edit pass on a Macworld magazine article and responding to as much email as I could, since I was going to be offline all day Tuesday.
Tuesday, July 16th — Tuesday before Macworld Expo is traditionally a day I reserve for having fun in New York City on my own, so I got up early to go into work with my aunt, who’s second-in-charge of the Statue of Liberty (still closed to visitors, though you can walk around outside now). I spent the morning browsing through the excellent Ellis Island Museum, then headed into Manhattan. I took the subway uptown, checked into the Paramount Hotel, and then spent the afternoon hopping between art galleries in the Chelsea district and taking photos of people on the street.
At 8 PM, I returned to the lobby of the Paramount, where TidBITS readers had already begun to gather for our annual TidBITS Ice Cream Social (see the group photo below – thanks to Pekka Helos for taking it!). We chatted for about half an hour, tried some truly amazing fresh Krispy Kreme donuts brought by Alex Hoffman, and then walked to a nearby Ben & Jerry’s. After cooling off with ice cream (especially welcome in the muggy evening temperatures), we headed back to the Paramount to continue discussions about everything from spam filtering to the room-sized printers that print Apple’s trade show banners to the new REALbasic Developer magazine, until we finally called it quits around midnight. I spent another hour preparing email for the next morning (when I’m travelling, I try to send Tristan email every day or so with pictures of things I see), and it was time for bed.
Wednesday, July 17th — Finally, the official Expo began in earnest with Steve Jobs’s keynote. Press people had to be at the Javits Convention Center by 8 AM for the 9 AM keynote, so I got up and out quickly. I always like to walk over to Javits from the Paramount in the morning – despite the 15 minute walk, it’s a relaxing time. Arriving at Javits, I immediately ran into an Apple employee friend from Seattle who had been dragooned into holding a big Media sign and directing press people to the appropriate staging area (he was good, and refrained from using the words "pen," "corral," or "herding" when anyone was listening). After 15 minutes of chatting, I joined my fellow pack animals, and another 20 minutes after that, we were herded to our seats in the auditorium. Interestingly, there weren’t as many people registered as press as in previous years. This year, I had no problem finding a seat.
The Macintosh media world is relatively small, so many of us know one another, and I sat with a number of editors from Macworld Magazine. We traded comments back and forth and shared notes occasionally as Jobs ran through a vast number of announcements in a mere two hours (see TidBITS-639 for full details).
The keynote gets the bulk of the attention at Macworld, but for me it’s merely the launch pad for numerous meetings and appearances. After the keynote, I dashed off to a press briefing from Creo, whose Six Degrees software provides a new way of organizing project-related files and email, though currently only for Microsoft Entourage users.
After that, I had about 20 minutes to snarf lunch in the speaker room and send and receive email using their AirPort-based Internet connection before heading off to my Macworld Users conference iPhoto presentation. People once again asked so many good questions that I only made it through about two-thirds of my material. Luckily I was able to continue talking at a signing at the Peachpit booth immediately afterwards. After an hour of that, I met with Peachpit’s publisher, Nancy Ruenzel, to chat about the book’s performance and future. Next up was a short conversation with the director of marketing for Web Crossing, whose software TidBITS is considering for our next-generation infrastructure. Around 5 PM, I finally had a chance to see the show floor, at least until 6 PM, when the show closed.
Don’t think that meant the end of the day, though, since first I hung out with everyone who was going to the Netter’s Dinner, and then walked over to the restaurant with them. Before we arrived, though, Glenn Fleishman, a good friend who worked with us on NetBITS, and I broke off and took the subway downtown to meet a small group of Mac friends at a theater where ex-Seattleite Mike Daisey was performing his one-man, Off-Broadway show about working at Amazon.com. Glenn had done a six-month stint as Amazon’s catalog manager, and since we had lived in Seattle during Amazon’s rise to prominence, Mike’s show was especially hilarious (I recommend it to anyone who has watched the dot-com boom and bust at all closely). Since Glenn and Mike knew each other, our group had dinner with Mike and his wife before we all piled back into the subway to head home. I made it to the Paramount by midnight, but after realizing that my roommate – Chuck Shotton, who wrote the first versions of WebSTAR – had arrived and was already asleep, I went to the lobby to work through email for an hour before I dropped from exhaustion again.
Thursday, July 18th — Vowing to be better about email, I got up early and arrived at Javits around 9 AM, which is before the show floor opens. Luckily, the press room, with its AirPort-based Internet connection and bagel breakfast, was open, so I settled down to my email. I didn’t read much, though, thanks to an impromptu visit from Craig Isaacs, who used to be the VP of Marketing at Dantz Development and is now the president of networking software company Neon Software. In addition to catching up on personal news, I saw enough of Neon’s NetMinder and LANsurveyor products to want to spend more time with them later. Craig realized he was late for a meeting, so I spent a few more minutes with email, just in time to receive notification that I’d managed to retain my third place ranking in the MDJ Power 25 list of influential people in the Macintosh world. That list has been good for my ego each year, and it reinforces my belief that making connections and doing the right thing is always the best course of action.
I hit the show floor at 10 AM and spent a few hours browsing the booths before attending a briefing with CMS Peripherals about the ABSplus backup device (a FireWire hard disk with a custom controller and software that enables it to back up changed files whenever you plug it in), and then taking lunch with the president of 4D to talk about their new mail server.
Next up was another signing for my iPhoto book at the Aladdin Systems booth, after which Sean King invited me over for a live broadcast of his Your Mac Life radio show, leaving only a half-hour before the show floor closed.
Even though I’d managed to eat lunch, the Peachpit authors dinner was welcome, as was the group limo ride that eliminated a long, muggy walk. There, along with much convivial conversation, I learned that my iPhoto Visual QuickStart Guide had been the first product purchased during the grand opening of the new Apple Store in Soho. After dinner and a little rain that didn’t break the mugginess, fellow author Dori Smith and I hopped into a cab to go to Apple’s Pro-to-Pro party, where vendors demonstrated products and services at small stations while everyone mingled. Unfortunately, demonstrations from a small stage were also going on, with a deafening sound system. By the end of the party, I’d been lucky enough to show the party coordinator my 1998 article on how to throw a good Macworld party.
When things wound down at 10 PM, I was too tired to attend the Your Mac Life party with the Macintosh All Star Band, so Tim Holmes (the manager of Apple’s Mac OS evangelists and #5 on the MDJ Power 25 list this year) and I walked back to the Paramount, where we talked for a few hours before another friend, Richard Ford of Packeteer, (who was previously Apple’s Open Transport product manager) happened on us in the Paramount’s bar. His arrival extended the evening for another few hours, so 3 AM had come and gone before I went to my room, where Chuck was still awake. It was another hour before we finished catching up.
Friday, July 19th — Chuck and I had to check out of the hotel before heading over to the show, so we were awake and packed before 9 AM. We met Richard Ford and Tom Weyer of Apple for breakfast and discussions about unusual wireless networking situations, since Tom had been the wireless networking evangelist until recently. Once at the Javits Convention Center, I headed for the speaker room to get email again and dash off a note to Tristan before hosting an informal, round-table discussion in the User Group Lounge. I had a great time talking and quizzing people on TidBITS trivia in exchange for a few TidBITS t-shirts I’d brought to give away. I then saw most of the rest of the show floor before putting in an hour at the Peachpit booth talking to people about digital cameras and iPhoto. There I also received the enjoyable news that Peachpit had sold all its copies of my iPhoto book at the show – we had to send the last few people over to the Aladdin booth, where a few copies were left. With the show floor closing, I had an hour to check my usual sources on estimated attendance and exhibitor opinions about the show.
Though the show was over, I wasn’t done. I met Tim Holmes again, and we compared notes on the show while picking up our luggage and meeting Andy Ihnatko (#23 on this year’s MDJ Power 25), with whom we took a cab to Brooklyn for dinner with a number of Mac friends at Tim’s brother’s house. Most people left or went to bed by midnight, but a few of us stayed up talking until nearly 4 AM.
Saturday, July 20th and Beyond — The week’s lack of sleep clearly catching up with me, I struggled awake at 7:30 AM and went to breakfast with fellow journalist David Strom at 8 AM. After a lengthy (and tasty) dim sum breakfast in Chinatown, David dropped me off at the Apple Store in Soho, where I was to present at 6:30 PM that evening. My plan was to dump my luggage in an office and then spend the afternoon walking around Soho. I had a great time talking to street artists and wandering in and out of stores and galleries until the lights suddenly flickered and went out when a transformer blew at the main ConEd plant, which powers a large chunk of lower Manhattan. Not being from New York, I didn’t immediately assume the worst, but the natives were distinctly jumpy, especially as the fire engines started racing past (as much as is possible in crowded Manhattan streets).
After the power went out, I walked back to the Apple Store, where I watched as firemen rescued people trapped in the elevator, leaving the store with their ladders and a standing ovation from the customers. The Apple Store was better off than almost any other business in the area – its open, airy design had a lot of natural light, and of course, the PowerBooks and iBooks kept working for a few hours on battery power.
Nonetheless, it was still early in the afternoon, so I didn’t see any reason to stick around to see if the power would come back on. Instead, I walked downtown to J&R Music & Computer World, which is one of the main Mac dealers in New York City and located just across the street from the blacked-out area. I was curious to compare them to the Apple Store, and after doing so, I can see why Apple is keen on opening more stores. Although J&R seems generally well-respected as a Mac dealer, the Apple Store had two advantages. First, you can be sure in the Apple Store that everything works with a Mac. Second, Apple does a great job of letting people touch not only Macs, but also peripherals like digital cameras, scanners, and printers.
Continuing down to the tip of Manhattan, I walked past ground zero of the terrorist attacks, which looks primarily like a large construction hole now, though plenty of physical reminders of the destruction of the World Trade Center towers remain. Around 5 PM I returned to the Apple Store, which was being forced to close at 6 PM because the power hadn’t come back on. Undaunted, I volunteered to demonstrate iPhoto to anyone who came by since my iBook was the only machine still usable. Even more fun was showing the Apple Store employees some of the tricks and techniques I’ve learned, since they give presentations about it and other Apple programs every day.
Fortunately, the subway to the Staten Island Ferry was still running, and after a scenic ferry ride, I was recounting the events of my day to my aunt and uncle over dinner. I made it to bed by the relatively early hour of 11 PM.
After a late and leisurely breakfast, I made the four hour drive home, then spent the rest of the afternoon and evening writing this article and catching up on important email. Unfortunately for me, we decided it was more important to run the keynote coverage, so I spent all day Monday writing the articles you read last week. We normally prefer a more relaxed production schedule, but special occasions like Macworld Expo often require such last minute exertions.
Finishing Up — I hope you’ve enjoyed this trip through my life at Macworld, and if I occasionally seem distracted or tired at future shows, I hope you’ll now understand why. As you can tell, the hardest parts are finding time to visit the show floor and keep up with email.
Although I’m dead tired at the end of each day, I do love doing this. There’s little I enjoy more than talking with people about Macintosh and Internet topics, and for many people in the industry, trade shows are the main chance we have to see one another.
The big difference between the Macintosh world and so many others is the community that’s grown up around the Mac, and that’s nowhere more evident than at Macworld. Sure, many people just go to Macworld Expo, walk around the floor for a few hours, and then go home, but if you put some effort into meeting and talking to other people, it’s easy to find yourself welcomed into the community.