On the Macworld show floor, I didn't really see one specific product that blew me away. What I did see, however, is the next big concept that's going to not only blow all of us away, but it will change the way we relate to our computers. It's the SSD (solid state drive) and it's almost ready for prime time. As we've mentioned before, an SSD is a high performance storage device that has no moving parts. These drives can contain DRAM or EEPROM memory, a CPU, a memory board and a battery card (more details here). Having no moving parts, they can move data much quicker than an HDD (hard disk drive) which uses quickly spinning platters with magnetic surfaces.
I got to play with what's being sold as the quickest SSD on the market, courtesy of Other World Computing. Their new Mercury Extreme Enterprise SSD drives start at US $229 for 50 GB and top out at 200 GB for $779.95. You can see our own Steve Sande in a video interview showing the boot time of this SSD vs. a stock 5400 rpm Apple drive. Watch for it at about 2:20 into the video. OWC set up a test of two Macbook Pros; I saw this demo myself and my jaw dropped as the SSD equipped laptop booted up and started running applications in 32 seconds. The HDD equipped Macbook Pro took at least three times as long to accomplish the same thing.
The computing experience is one of perception. How fast or slow your computer seems is based on more than the CPU speed alone. It's a composite of I/O speed, CPU speed and dozens of other factors. If you have a screamingly fast CPU with a poky drive, you have a poky computer as the chain is only as good as its weakest link. I've found, on my i7 iMac, that no matter what I do, I usually can't use up all the CPU speed, so the slowness may be due to the HDD not being able to keep up.
The current and future classes of SSDs are going to change all that. I can imagine sitting down, booting up and before I can lift my coffee cup, the computer has come up and is running startup programs. This will take some getting used to, since it will change my and everyone's work flow somewhat. Instead of all the little interruptions you get from waiting for something to happen, the response will be nearly instantaneous. This will tend to keep me more focused since I'm a procrastinator by nature, and get distracted quickly, like whenever I see a spinning beach ball. If a computer works as quickly as I feel it should work, I will be more engaged.