For the TUAW staff, Macworld/iWorld 2013 enabled a good chunk of our staff to get together in a way that we normally can't because of distance. We had fun, as we do every year, and not everything we see on the show floor made it into a news article. So, here are three observations from each TUAW staffer that attended -- from the silly to the serious and everything in-between.
1. The iPad-equipped telepresence robot was probably the most impressive thing I saw on the show floor. The price means I personally won't get one, but just seeing the robot in action (and controlling it with another iPad) made me realize the possibilities for using Apple's extremely powerful tablet to support and enhance other technologies. That's what Macworld is all about these days: you own Apple products, and what else can you do with them?
2. The Jam monkey was an endless source of fascination for me as well. It was a live wild animal on the show floor of Macworld! I'm hoping someone tries to up the ante even higher next year by bringing, say, a real mountain lion.
3. Finally, aside from all of the silliness on the show floor, I think the community is why a lot of visitors still come to this show, and it's definitely one of my favorite features. It's always great to see everyone we've known for years now in this community, whether it's shaking hands in the hallway, sharing stories over dinner, or clinking drinks at the TUAW meetup. Yes, it's always good to see the new apps and new accessories, but my favorite thing about this show is the people.
1. NOT all iPhone cases! I heard a lot of grumbling this year from people who were dismissive (I think the addition of "iWorld" to the name of the expo started it) of the entire experience, claiming it was just a room full of iPhone cases and that couldn't be further from the truth. There were a lot of iOS products, sure, but the show was, as Adam Christianson said, proportional.
2. There were some "novelty" items, but what I liked this year was the trend toward utility in accessories. Chef Sleeve is the first company that comes to mind, making kitchen accessories that incorporate the iPad. Now that people are done oohing and ahhing over The New Apple Thing, what other uses are there? It's exciting.
3. I'm going to crib from Mike, since this is always my favorite thing about Macworld: Community. I love getting to meet people, I love hearing about the new thing, and this year as a speaker I got to interact with a whole new group of people. We had the TUAW meetup, Smile's tenth anniversary party, Cirque du Mac, there were so many opportunities to hang out with the rest of the Mac community in a way that no amount of tweeting or podcasting will ever match.
1. OK, so I'm cheating by reading what Kelly and Mike already wrote, but they are 100% correct when they say that Macworld/iWorld is all about community. Seriously, I talked with so many people so much during the three days I was in San Francisco that I could barely talk when I got home. It's not just the other bloggers; it's about meeting the developers and manufacturers that we work with, and getting to meet a bunch of TUAW readers. The TUAW Meetup (see picture below) was a blast, although next year we'll need to schedule it so that it doesn't conflict with Cirque du Mac.
2. I'm always impressed by what I see at the OWC booth, and this year's selection of products was amazing. Whether it was the upcoming 2 TB SSD or their big NAS box, or the updates to existing products like the Power2U wall socket, it was a blast meeting with the OWC folks again this year.
3. While attendance at Macworld/iWorld 2013 didn't seem to be lacking, the amount of open space on the floor at Moscone West seemed to indicate that not as many vendors decided to shell out the money to exhibit their wares this year. Many of the booths were smaller this year than they were in the past. It's beginning to look as if the real reason to attend Macworld/iWorld is for the conference sessions and community, not to wander the floor in search of non-dairy cheese or children's bicycles -- both of which were items on display.
1. Appalooza. The "bullpen" exhibit area of small boothlets remains a dense yet pleasant sector. While it wasn't as packed solid as in years past (keeping in mind that I missed last year's show -- my comparisons are from 2011 to 2013), it still provides a much-needed opportunity for app developers and newcomers to the Apple ecosystem to get their products in front of people. In particular, it was great to talk to the guys from RAGE Software (EasyWeb), the ByteSquared team (Office2HD) and the VoiceOver-optimized VO Calendar developer.
2. San Francisco. So many of my friends, collaborators and past colleagues live in the Bay Area; it never seems like there's enough time to catch up with them all. Having a central event to pull everyone in makes it much easier to connect.
3. Loyalty. There's a solid economic argument to be made for participation in Macworld/iWorld as an exhibitor; one accessory vendor, with a centrally located booth, told me that they expected to make back their costs in sales alone -- meaning that all the brand awareness and user contact is just gravy. Still, the fact that some heavy hitters continue to bring full-size booths year after year is quite heartwarming. Thanks to you, HP and Crashplan, Belkin and OWC, Fujitsu and HYPER -- and thanks to your fellow travelers upstairs in the Mac IT mini-exhibit hall, Parallels, VMware, Absolute and JAMF. Your exhibitor fees help make the whole Macworld go round.
Victor Agreda, Jr.
1. Developers! Like Mike R. said, there's never enough time to catch up with everyone. That's why we have so many parties and meetups to choose from. Still, meeting and sharing feedback one-on-one is so valuable that it's probably my favorite part of the entire show.
2. Wacky products. Starfish, the vaporware hit of the show is an example of bad execution. But then there's the Bowblade, which I dismissed at first. Then I went by the booth, spoke to the father/son team who made it, and understood that it's more of an exercise tool than archery simulator. A lot of writers seemed to chuckle at the homebrew nature of the device, and the price -- as did I -- but the creators have their hearts in the right place. Macworld's expo floor is a fun jaunt if you love entrepreneurs and creativity.
3. Programming. Not code, but the sessions, the presentations, the IT track... Even with quite a few TUAW writers on deck every day we weren't able to cover it all. As I wandered about I saw engaged viewers really digging whatever they were watching. We had a few attendees and speakers at sessions, and from what I hear the audience was thrilled with the content. I was pleasantly surprised by how good the talk with Josh Gad and Ashton Kutcher went, and was sad that I missed Fred Armisen. There's a lot more to the Macworld/iWorld experience than just the parties and show floor, and as a learning and growing experience, it's still one of the best conferences I attend.
Oh, and I got a hug from Paul Kent.
1. This was my first Macworld, so I went into it with only my own notions of what it would be like, and I have to say that they were pretty spot-on. I expected to see a lot of innovation and creativity and I wasn't disappointed. This was evident in all of the new approches to using iOS devices I saw, from the semi-ludicrous Bowblade to the imminently more functional (and portable) Olloclip lens system. It was just great to see so many new ways to use the technology we love in different ways.
2. Sharing! Even if there weren't exhibitors to visit or panels to attend, I would go to Macworld purely for the chance to meet so many devoted Apple fans and share the ways we've come up with to use the technology or use it better.
3. For the fans. Unlike other expos I attend every year such as E3 and Game Developers Conference, Macworld is open to the public. This means that it has a very different vibe, and frankly one that I like a lot more. It's not just about product demos and interviews with various companies; there's a chance for the everyday fan to interact with the people and businesses that drive their hobby, and I think it benefits both sides. I have to imagine the companies that attend leave the show with a much better appreciation for their customers along with a lot of ideas of how to better serve their needs with new products and enhancements to existing ones.
1. I'm the last one to add my thoughts, ergo I get to peek at what the rest of my co-conspirators wrote, and I agree with them on community and fans. My first Macworld was last year, and I was so overwhelmed that I didn't get as much out of it as I thought I had. This year was better in every respective -- from interaction with fans to networking with other people in the Mac community, vendors and developers. It felt like I had a place in this community, or as Randy told me at one point, I had found my people. San Francisco and the expo were no longer strangers, and I could navigate the show floor without having a map. That being said ...
2. I found that the show floor was laid out much better than last year's. I agree that it appeared that the number of vendors was less, but I think repeat vendors were also using their space more effectively. There was a nice seating area in the middle of the Appalooza, and the tables that were at the back last year was moved to the unused space on the sides. I noticed that they allowed the doors to open a few minutes early rather than have a huge mass of people force their way through right at opening time. It's these little touches that make the experience not only better for media, but for fans as well.
3. The tech talks, workshops and other sessions. They weren't just on the show floor either. OmniFocus had hosted one-on-one sessions at the Cartoon Art Museum to help users leap over the learning curve in using the program. I chatted with Macworld's Serenity Caldwell on Friday about her session on the basics of building ebooks, and other tech talks included digital art, photography, design, development security and more. They even allowed a couple of ne'er-do-wells (and Jeff Gamet) to run a session on how to pitch your app to the media. These sessions weren't just interesting, they were extremely useful for fans and the media. I just wish I had managed to attend some of them!