Unless you saw everything at last week’s Macworld Expo in New York City, you’ll want to read on for our reports on Steve Jobs’s keynote address, the reasons why the show was so small, and an overview of all the USB devices shown. Finally, we also present our traditional Macworld Superlatives, covering the Expo’s best, worst, and funkiest, as well as the numerous products, people, companies, and events that stood out from the crowd.
Jobs Delivers Upbeat Macworld Keynote — During his keynote at last week’s Macworld Expo NY, Steve Jobs emphasized the health of Apple and the Macintosh, addressing what he termed the "Apple Hierarchy of Skepticism" and by again outlining Apple’s four-part hardware strategy of focusing exclusively on creating desktop and portable Macintoshes for consumer and professional audiences. (See "Apple Hardware Strategy: Alluring PowerBooks and iMac" in TidBITS-429.) Jobs also announced that the iMac will be available 15-Aug-98, and that it will ship with 56 Kbps modems, rather than the 33.6 Kbps modems originally planned. Microsoft’s Ben Waldman revealed that Microsoft will offer a $100 rebate to iMac purchasers who also buy Office 98, or copies of Bookshelf and Encarta to those who have purchased the educational version of Office 98.
In addition, Jobs demonstrated a DVD drive for PowerBook G3s, using a sleek onscreen interface and a PC Card that handled MPEG decompression. Apple’s Phil Schiller demonstrated several features of the forthcoming Mac OS 8.5 (due this September), including Sherlock, a new Internet-savvy searching functionality based on Apple’s AIAT technology (better known as V-Twin). The first attempt to demonstrate Mac OS 8.5’s network copy performance on 100Base-T Ethernet failed due to a misconfigured server having gone to sleep, but a second try showed the Power Mac narrowly beating a 400 MHz Pentium II system. Jobs also noted that Rhapsody 1.0, which Apple plans to release in the third quarter, will be renamed Mac OS X Server, possibly to alleviate confusion between Rhapsody and Mac OS X and help convince developers that Rhapsody isn’t a dead-end release. (See "Mac OS X: Rhapsody a Mac Developer Could Love" in TidBITS-430.) Throughout the keynote, Jobs emphasized continued strong sales of G3 systems, numerous recent announcements of new Macintosh applications (including games), and growing support for USB devices on the Macintosh (see "USB and You" in TidBITS-436, plus news about USB devices later in this issue). So, although the Macworld keynote lacked any stunning announcements, it was well-received by Expo attendees as an affirmation of the vitality of Apple and the Macintosh. [GD]
The first Macworld Expo to be held in New York City was marked by smallish crowds, few exhibitors, and little in the way of exciting new products. Most notable were the paucity of attendees and exhibitors; after the crush of the crowds in both San Francisco and Boston in recent years, plus the need for multiple exhibition halls in Boston, this year’s Macworld NYC seemed adrift in the enormous Jacob Javits Convention Center.
The show started on a promising note – Steve Jobs’s keynote was packed, and the press line stretched far back into the recesses of the Javits Center. But then, after I participated in a panel and finally made it upstairs to the show floor, I couldn’t help but ask, "This is it?"
The raw size of the show was well down from previous years, and although the number of vendors may not have been much smaller than at earlier shows, more exhibitors had small booths or tiny kiosks rather than the extravagant pavilions of yesteryear. The show size will undoubtedly be greeted with glee by Apple bashers, but I’m convinced that Apple’s current fortunes are unrelated to the show size. Based on numerous discussions with exhibitors and attendees, here’s what I think happened:
New York City can be extraordinarily expensive. Neil Ticktin of MacTech Magazine, which organizes the Developer Central area of the show, estimated that everything was at least thirty percent more expensive in New York. Companies were so flabbergasted by setup prices that they stopped keeping financial details private. One company was charged $6,800 to move two pallets from the convention center’s loading dock to their booth. Those prices scared off many companies, and some large companies attended only thanks to pressure from Apple. One or two small companies even received free booth space because there was no way they could have exhibited otherwise.
Some vendors may have decided not to exhibit because of this year’s advertised push toward the publishing market – the subtitle of the show was "The Creative World." Companies associated with markets such as the Internet, programming, and so on may have felt left out of the show’s avowed focus. In retrospect, centering the show on publishing may have been a mistake, since the publishing world is well represented by the Seybold Seminars, and to judge from the new eMediaweekly’s (formerly MacWEEK) claims, the publishing world is heavily cross-platform these days.
The three-day length of the show may have distressed vendors that sell a great deal of software because there was one less day to sell than at the more common four-day shows. It might make sense in the future to run the show a fourth day once again, preferably a Saturday, so individuals could attend even if they hadn’t been able to take time away from work. This idea fits well with Apple’s new focus on the consumer market.
Moving the show up a month to July from August caused definite consternation. Many companies try to ship products in conjunction with Macworld Expo, and many products that were shown won’t ship for a month or so. It’s hard to sell pre-release software, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the date change played havoc with shipping schedules, reduced revenues from show sales, and caused some companies to skip the show. Plus, attendees were faced with more competition from other events: MacHack was in late June, and Macworld was sandwiched between PC Expo and Internet World, two other large New York expositions. Even people who live in New York City might choose only one of the three events.
The planning for a trade show takes place many months before the show itself. Even if Apple’s recent revival indicates a turnaround in the Macintosh industry, the decisions to exhibit at Macworld Expo were made some time ago, when the picture didn’t include Mac OS X or the extremely well-received iMac.
New York City was an unfamiliar place for most potential Macworld exhibitors and attendees. Dealing with a new city is difficult and stressful, and that fact was reflected by the small number of parties after the show floor closed. Many companies probably decided that organizing a party in an unfamiliar city, particularly one as expensive as New York, wasn’t worth the effort.
Finally, although most of the above reasons apply primarily to exhibitors, the expense and unfamiliarity of the location may have also cut down on the number of attendees, plus the word of mouth about the small size of the show reportedly caused some New York City residents to stay away.
The organizers of this year’s Macworld Expo are applying an old saying to New York City: it’s a great place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there. Next year, Macworld Expo will return to Boston’s World Trade Center (and the new Seaport Hotel complex) from August 4th through 6th. Although IDG Expo Management failed to provide any real rationale for moving Macworld back to Boston, complaints from exhibitors and attendees must have played a significant role. Interestingly, the east coast Seybold Seminars exposition is also moving back to Boston after two years in New York City, reportedly "in direct response to popular demand among both the vendor/exhibitor community and attendees." Along with other issues, it sounds like the city of Boston took steps to lure these shows back.
Attendees of Macworld Expo in New York will remember the experience as the iMac Expo, complete with the slogan, "I think, therefore iMac." We’re thrilled that the iMac stole the show – Apple couldn’t afford for it not to, but we’re distressed that so little else happened that upcoming USB support became a primary news theme. (See "USB and You" in TidBITS-436 to learn more about USB.)
Driven to USB — Several companies displayed prototype drive units designed as iMac companions. For example, Imation’s new iMac-savvy SuperDisk USB drive features a sporty iMac-blue ring around the side of its case. The SuperDisk USB drive supports not only regular floppy disks, but also a 120 MB "Mac-formatted SuperDisk Diskette." Imation plans to ship the drive in mid-August (in North America) with a suggested retail price of $189; SuperDisk Diskettes will be available in five-packs for a suggested retail price of $65.
SyQuest showed off new 1 GB SparQ drives in translucent cherry red and deep purple. SyQuest hasn’t decided on the final colors, but a SyQuest representative said most people preferred the red. These drives don’t accept floppy disks or other SyQuest cartridges, but their 1 GB size makes them the most capacious removable storage drives announced for the iMac so far. According to the SyQuest press release, the drives should be available by the "holiday shopping season." A PC version of the SparQ is currently shipping for $199 with a cartridge three-pack costing $99; pricing on the USB version should be similar.
Keyspan announced plans to ship highly stylized versions of a USB floppy disk drive, a USB-to-Mac serial converter, and a device that attaches up to four serial cables to one USB port. Keyspan also announced a PCI card containing two USB ports for Power Macintosh owners interested in moving toward the USB standard with future peripheral purchases. The USB card should ship in September for under $100; Keyspan hasn’t yet announced shipping dates or pricing for the other products.
USB Imaging — Alps Electric and Hewlett-Packard (HP) both announced parallel-to-USB converters that ship with appropriate printer drivers. Alps announced that its next round of printers (due in Nov-98) would come with a USB option; HP outlined a short-term plan to ship drivers plus a parallel-to-USB converter that customers can use with currently available HP DeskJets. The new $69 HP Printer Cable Kit for Macintosh will work with the DeskJet 670C/672C and the 690C/692C/694C. The 670Cs that Apple sells to education customers should be bundled with the new cable. An HP representative indicated some uncertainty as to the future of the Mac-specific DeskWriter line, which provides either serial or LocalTalk connections. With Apple shifting its emphasis to USB, it’s possible that the DeskWriter will fade away.
UMAX Technologies is currently shipping the USB-based, flat-bed, color UMAX Astra 1220U scanner; however, buyers should note that the press release says that the scanner will work only with Windows as it ships right now. UMAX plans to have Macintosh software for the scanner available in September. The 1220U currently comes in a dull-looking case, but a UMAX representative indicated later versions might sport translucent panels to better match the iMac industrial design.
Peripherals and More — In addition to the hubs and ports announced by Keyspan, USB port enthusiasts should check out ADS Technologies’ soon-to-be-shipping Mac-specific versions of the USB Port for Notebooks, USB Port for Desktops, and USB Hub (the hub connects four USB devices to a USB port). All should be available in the $70 to $100 range.
The folks at Macally (formerly MacAlley) are already shipping a variety of input devices for Windows machines and plan to add Mac versions of their mouse, trackball, extended keyboard, camera, and other products in the near future.
The Final Port — Although USB support for the iMac will be somewhat weak initially, Apple’s early announcement of the iMac was probably instrumental in encouraging these and other companies to speed up USB development plans. USB will be standard equipment on all Macs soon, so it’s good to see that we’ll have options for future peripherals and for retaining some older serial devices.
In keeping with our tradition of recognizing and reporting the best and worst from each Macworld Expo, here’s this year’s installment.
Best Slogan — Apple Computer takes this award home for the "I think, therefore iMac" adage. The slogan was a bit corny, but Apple’s 120-foot banner stole the show. The phrase appeared throughout the Expo, just as iMacs themselves graced many vendors’ booths. It’s nice to see some clever marketing and advertising coming from Apple after so many years of the tepid and banal. [ACE]
Most Omnipresent — The iMac. Apple has done a good job of fanning the excitement about this new Mac. We saw dozens of iMacs on the Expo floor, and not just at Apple’s booth, although several were there for people to play with, pick up, and examine closely. Connectix had an iMac hooked up to a USB QuickCam, Momentum had PalmPilot/iMac connectors, and there were iMacs in evidence at other booths, too. Talk around the show was that people have figured out that iMac won’t just be for casual home users, but also for businesses that need a few dozen simple workstations, classrooms, power users’ parents, and so on. [MHA]
Just Stuff It — With apologies to Aladdin Systems, who used this slogan years back on StuffIt Deluxe bumper stickers, this award goes to Steve Jobs, who silenced hecklers who hissed after he spoke positively about Internet Explorer. "Hey – I use it and I like it," Jobs said brusquely, and the naysayers shut up. Netscape Communications was conspicuously absent from the show, although I noticed that a number of Netscape engineers attended June’s MacHack developer conference. Evangelizing developers probably makes more sense than exhibiting at Macworld for Netscape these days. [ACE]
Best System Utility Upgrade — This award goes to Casady & Greene for the upcoming release of Conflict Catcher 8.0. Conflict Catcher is adding four to its version number to turn 8.0, mostly because Casady & Greene was having trouble convincing people that a 4.x product was compatible with Mac OS 8. (The same rationale apparently applies to Connectix’s newly rechristened RAM Doubler 8.) Conflict Catcher 8.0 includes many subtle improvements and new features, such as the capability to explain what an extension is if you click its icon during startup, but what makes it a compelling upgrade is its new Clean System Merge feature. The Clean System Merge should vastly speed up and simplify the process of moving (or copying) old extensions, preferences, and other files from an old System Folder into a new one. Conflict Catcher 8.0 will cost $79.95 and include a $30 rebate good through 30-Sep-98. [ACE]
Most Unsung — Vimage Corporation says its Vpower PowerPC G3 upgrades for a wide range of Power Macs and recent PowerBook models are better, faster, and cheaper than Newer Technology’s offerings. They include a fan on the desktop models, claim a better architecture, and point out that their upgrade cards are in good supply while Newer’s are back-ordered. We would have asked Newer Technologies to comment, but they skipped this year’s Expo. [MHA]
Most Lust-inducing Technology — Perhaps I’m alone in this, but I was stunned by the advances in the digital camera market, what with new digital still cameras, digital video cameras, and photo printers. I’d love to present individual awards to some of the products I saw, but it wasn’t possible to compare or evaluate them on the floor. I had an interesting conversation with an Olympus representative, who said that computer people are generally being fooled when they compare digital still cameras by the raw number of pixels captured by the CCD. In his opinion, three important variables relate directly to final image quality: the number of pixels; the "line pair" resolution of the lens (basically, the quality of the lens optics); and the camera subsystems that handle things like focus, exposure, and flash. The only way to judge digital cameras fairly is to compare them in terms of image quality and features, and that’s a difficult task. Those interested in the topic might read the two-part TidBITS discussion that ran in TidBITS-407 and TidBITS-408. [ACE]
Smartest Marketing — "Everyone" knows that mail order is the way to go these days. Apple’s online store has taken off, and Dell and Gateway 2000 have built their entire businesses on mail order. "Why not printers?" was GCC Technologies’ question. Why not, indeed? The company has offered its products via direct sales almost as long as Macs have been connecting to printers, so GCC’s newly refurbished online store makes sense. To sweeten the online ordering experience, GCC is offering its new overnight replacement policy (also known as "Platinum Exchange warranty") free for the first year to mail order printer buyers. Definitely worth a look if you live and die by your printer. [MHA]
Most Popular Upgrade — Expo attendees flocked to the Golive Systems booth to ask questions and see demonstrations of GoLive’s popular visual HTML design tool CyberStudio, which is now shipping in professional and personal versions. (See "CyberStudio 3 Goes Live" in TidBITS-430 and "GoLive CyberStudio Gets Personal" in TidBITS-433.)
Brightest Tchotchkes — Cool giveaways were in limited supply, but Multi-Ad Services lit up the place with squeezable tchotchkes in the shape of light bulbs. We’ve already found them useful in meetings for lightening the atmosphere and tossing around ideas. Multi-Ad Services was demonstrating Multi-Ad Creator2, version 1.1.1, a layout tool for creating advertising. The award for the most useful tchotchke goes to Newer RAM, on hand with stack after stack of GURU floppies. The handy free utility answers the age-old question, "What type of memory do I need for my Mac?" Naturally, Newer RAM will be happy to sell you the upgrade after GURU tells you what you need. [MHA]
Best Effort at a SiteMill Killer — Wootech, a relative newcomer in the Web authoring field, demonstrated Voyager Professional Edition, version 2.5, the first seriously commercial version of the company’s Web site management tool. Voyager acts as a sort of uber-tool that integrates with Web authoring programs, so you can use Voyager to make one Web site where pages are created in, for instance, BBEdit and Visual Page. Voyager provides services to Web authoring software, most notably master pages, and also stores elements such as graphics and table cells whose contents repeat throughout a site. If you change a repeating element once in Voyager, it updates automatically through the site. Although it lacks a spider’s eye view, Voyager provides an outline view and can check for broken links. Once you are done creating the components of a site, Voyager generates the final HTML, though this version lacks FTP capabilities. Although Voyager looks promising (and as a 1.0 product it would look particularly promising), it’s hard to imagine Web authors clamoring for the product, given its $269 suggested retail price. [ACE]
Best Doubler Software — Although Connectix announced the $45 RAM Doubler 8.0 at the show, the award for best doubler goes to Maxum Development for WebDoubler. WebDoubler makes it easier for a group of computers to share limited Internet bandwidth by acting as a proxy server and handling all Web page requests from client computers on a network. If, for example, twenty users request the same page at once (as might happen in a classroom), WebDoubler fetches the page from the Internet and then makes it available to all the client computers. Using a clever caching scheme created by Clearway Technologies, WebDoubler stores requested Web pages in a local cache, thus speeding future requests for the same page. WebDoubler also offers PICS-based filtering, which enables server administrators to filter Web pages based on lists of undesirable sites or words, or PICS ratings.
WebDoubler runs on any PowerPC-based Macintosh, though Maxum recommends a low-end G3-based computer, preferably running as a dedicated server, though it can also run other software such as AppleShare IP, or Web and email servers. Maxum plans to ship WebDoubler in early September, and a beta should be available online this week. Maxum has yet to set final pricing but estimates that WebDoubler will retail for about $850, $650 for educational usage. Site licenses for multiple servers will also be available. [ACE]
Longest-Awaited Fix — I’ve been using Scott Gruby’s NotifyMail off and on for years, and I’m delighted that, at its new home with Imagina Internet Solutions, NotifyMail 3.1 eliminates the problem PowerBook users had when waking their computers without a network connection active. Turn on NotifyMail’s smart Ethernet feature, and PowerPC users with Open Transport need no longer worry about those pesky hangs. [MHA]
Funkiest Hotel — We’re a bit offended at paying high rates to stay in hotels whose beige rooms are the nadir of ticky-tack chic. This year we happened on the Paramount Hotel in New York City, which is best described as "aggressively hip." It’s at 235 West 46th Street between 7th and 8th Avenues – a relevant detail since the outside of the hotel lacks any indication of the name or street number. The best external landmark was the group of "well-hewn" (to quote a female friend’s approving appraisal) doormen wearing natty, dark grey, double-breasted wool suits. Once inside, the lobby contains a forest of chairs, no two alike and many only superficially comfortable. The somewhat disconcerting lobby bathrooms were completely mirrored, and that shock came after you figured out how to open the appropriate barely marked frosted glass door. Four baroque elevators served the 19 stories, each lit by colored lights. We consistently found ourselves in the purple elevator; the others were orange, green, and red, though we never got the red elevator. The rooms were similarly odd, with a low white bed crested with a huge picture frame headboard. Our room featured a Rembrandt reproduction on padded vinyl in the frame; other rooms had different images or just the frames. If standard hotels bore you silly, try the Paramount next time you need to stay in New York City. [ACE]
Best Party — CalComp cops this award for their party at the Whitney Museum. If the organizers hadn’t read my party recommendations (see "Macworld Geek Party Guide" in TidBITS-415), they came to many of the same conclusions. The venue was interesting (including museum tours), the food was great, tables and chairs were provided, the staff were low-key about the product (CalComp’s inexpensive Creation Station graphics tablets), and if the music was a little loud, at least it was jazz. In stark contrast, Apple’s iMac party the next night was overly loud, crowded, and confusing. A bunch of us gave up trying to talk and relocated to a Ben & Jerry’s for ice cream instead. [ACE]
Best Contract Requirement — IDG Expo Management became our friend this year by outlawing the noisy clickers that Iomega used at Macworld San Francisco in January to promote the company’s Clik drives (which might or might not ship sometime this year). Mixing the clickers with a New York crowd might have resulted in violence. [ACE]
Pithiest Shirt — In honor of its new product, PhoneWatcher, Mark/Space Softworks had t-shirts with the pixelated picture of a 1950’s telephone operator above the pixilated words "I Like To Watch." PhoneWatcher enables you to report, log, and respond to incoming calls, using your modem and caller ID. So if you’ve ever wanted to hang up automatically on specific callers, be paged when a certain person calls, or log phone calls, PhoneWatcher is worth a look. [ACE]