Diving into All Things Apple at MacWorld

Datamation columnist John Welch looks back at the recent MacWorld Expo Conference and offers a run down of what intrigued him the most.
Posted January 27, 2006

John Welch

John Welch

In my last column, I talked about the major Macworld Expo Keynote announcements, but those weren't the only things that I saw of note at Macworld.

This conference had a lot going on, in fact, almost too much. The show floor was nigh-overwhelming in what was going on, well, everywhere. Some conversations with the folks at IDG World Expo confirmed this. They told me the only empty spots on the show floor were due to vendors who hadn't shown for various reasons. There were, I believe, two. In a related note, IDG World Expo announced that Paul Kent, founder of Mactivity and long-time Macworld Expo (along with other shows) Conference chair had been promoted to vice president in charge of Macworld Expo. Those of us who have been teaching at Macworld Expo, and involved with the show for a while are pretty much universally pleased at this. Paul and his team have always done an excellent job with the conferences, and we're all sure that he'll do the same with the show overall.

For many in enterprise IT, Research In Motion's BlackBerry is a critical part of our toolset -- lawsuits or not. However, until recently, you really couldn't sync a BlackBerry with a Mac at all, and up until Macworld, you had to buy sync software from a third party, namely PocketMac.

At Macworld, not only was BlackBerry there, but they announced a licensing deal that allows all BlackBerry owners to get the PocketMac software for free. Now, PocketMac was never what anyone would call expensive, but it's important from an image perspective if nothing else, as it shows that RIM is viewing its Mac, using customers as a serious enough number to be worthy of some care and feeding.

The other major handheld sync company, Mark/Space was present, as well, showing off its Missing Sync line. Although they didn't have a major announcement ala PocketMac, they do have some of the best sync software on the Mac for Palm, Windows Mobile, and Sidekick devices.

The latest revision to their Palm software supports Sync Services in Mac OS X 10.4. This is a major addition to the product, (and one I hope shows up in the Windows Mobile version), as it allows you to sync data, like contacts, events, and notes, with multiple applications, whether you directly sync with those applications or not. If you have a .Mac account, you can sync that data with multiple Macs, all without having to connect your device with any one of them.

I know many question the value of .Mac, but I think Sync Services, and the potential it has in conjunction with .Mac, has a huge potential value, especially as more applications integrate Sync Services support.

Garmin was perhaps the biggest non-keynote surprise of Macworld for me.

A company long-known for ignoring the Mac market -- almost to the point of hostility -- they were not only at Macworld Expo, but were announcing that they are going to ''immediately begin to make its line of GPS and mobile electronics devices compatible with Mac OS X version 10.4''. If you rely on GPS systems to get your work done, for a long time you used Windows. You could get third-party stuff to work with Garmin units, but getting support for new units was spotty, and functionality wasn't always there. Garmin announcing support for the Mac will be a big help to Mac-using Garmin customers in fields from physical training to sales.

The Session Side

On the conference side of the show, the lineup was excellent, as usual.

Presenting technical material, especially in a session that's only 90 minutes long, and to an unknown audience of an unknown skill level is tricky at best, but the presenters always manage to pull it off. This year had more sold-out conferences, and standing room-only sessions than I've seen in a while. The two-day Mac OS X Server Advanced Power Tools session was sold out early, as was the AppleScript, Final Cut Pro Studio, Acrobat and Photoshop sessions. There were quite a few Mac IT conferences that had to be run twice to acommodate all the attendees who wanted to see them. (The message for 2007? Register early. Arrive early.)

The Mac IT conference was, as always, full of sessions for use at every level, from the server room tech to the corner office denizen. It was quite possible to spend the entire week of Macworld Expo in sessions and conferences, never hitting the show floor, and still getting more than your money's worth. The conferences have always been the not-so-hidden gem of Macworld, and, at least in my opinion, a major reason for Macworld surviving where other shows, like Comdex, have failed. Some things you just can't match on the Internet, not even with WebEx.

I know I haven't covered even half of Macworld. I had thought about doing daily posts, but honestly, Macworld is a week of constant activity, and I realized I hadn't planned correctly for daily posting at all. Maybe next year I can pull that off.

But, as always, I got far more out of Macworld Expo than I spent on Macworld Expo, and that's enough to keep me coming back every year. (Oh yes... From what I can tell, my sessions on SOX and Nagios went well, even with the demo gods frowning on me in the latter. To all who attended, and said such kind things to me afterwards, thank you very much. It's really nice to know that people get something useful out of the hardest 90 minutes of my year.)

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