Macworld Expo 2011

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Having our office in downtown San Francisco has many advantages. One of these has always been our proximity to the Moscone Center, home to the venerable Macworld Expo. The Macworld Expo has been a highlight of my year since I moved to San Francisco six years ago. Sadly, I missed last year’s expo while I was on a safari in Kenya (tough life, I know), so I was doubly excited about attending this year’s event. What a miserable disappointment, then, when I arrived to discover that the 2011 Macworld Expo is nothing but a shadow of what it once was.

I knew that Apple bowed out of the Expo a couple years ago, but I didn’t realize what a significant impact this would have on the overall quality of the event. The vast majority of exhibitors were for iPhone, iPod, and iPad cases and accessories. How boring! I can see all manner of such accessories by walking across the street to the Apple Store or visiting a few websites. There really is nothing special about seeing these things in person. An iPhone case is an iPhone case and an iPad stand is an iPad stand. I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised by the lack of original exhibitors. At the first Macworld Expo after the iPhone hit the market, there was a huge influx of exhibitors with their iPhone paraphernalia, but I had really hoped that as time went by, we would start to see more innovative products at the expo. Apparently, not so.

Some of the classic exhibitors that I always look forward to seeing, though, were missing. Apparently, with Apple’s departure, the biggest exhibitors decided it was time to uproot, as well. Conspicuously absent this year were Adobe, Canon, Peachpit Press, Macally, FileMaker Pro, Microsoft (sponsored/no booth), and Ambrosia. Needless to say, it didn’t take me long to get through the entire expo when the highest quality booth was for the iGrill, a grilling thermometer for your iProduct. And even that booth wasn’t terribly exciting. I mean, you can’t operate a real grill in the middle of an expo, so the fake food on the inoperable grill served as more of a humorous sight than a reliable illustration of the product’s capabilities.

The highlight of the show for me had nothing to do with the exhibitors or the products; rather, it was when I spotted Leo Laporte and Sarah Lane from This Week in Tech doing some coverage. I ran into them twice, once at the TuneUp Media van, and again as they were walking through one of the aisles, and both times there was a swarm of people following them and taking photos. I suspect that the reactions they were getting from people at the Macworld Expo were slightly different from those they might get at, say, a Horror Movie Expo.

The lack of the major exhibitors, and the smaller number of exhibitors overall, also meant that this year’s Expo took place in only the Moscone Center West, which, I believe, has the smallest exhibition hall. In fact, the entire Macworld Expo was taking place in that single building. I remember the glory days of the expo when they occupied all three of the Moscone Center’s main buildings. At the end of the day, I suppose it was good that I went, but I’m certainly glad I got my Expo Only pass free! This year’s exhibit hall was certainly not worth a $45 price of admission. Granted, I didn’t attend any of the other functions this year, and they may have been excellent, but the exhibit hall was a complete miss in my book.

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