Friday, January 13, 2006

The things other websites won't tell you about MacWorld Expo '06

I'm back in my hometown of Greenville SC ... thank goodness. Maybe I'll make a travel map iMovie like Steve Jobs did at the expo.

At previous expos where I assisted both Apple and another exhibitor; I had them arrange my meals, arrange hotel and travel ... and basically do everything but wake me up and hand feed me.

I did not realize (until after I needed it) that the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) closed at 12am every day ... on all three nights I was in San Fran I needed to be on the BART at about midnight. I missed it once.

At the airport, we had been told that cab fare would be about $60 to transport us downtown ... we later found out it was about $40 - still ... this was incredibly high for a 10 mile / 15 minute trip. It was also unbudgeted.

I didn't realize that San Francisco pretty much shuts down at 6PM either ... I was shocked that all of Chinatown was closed at 10PM and most stores and a number of restaurants were closed.

Getting to experience San Fran more as a tourist this time was certainly eye opening ... there is a severe homeless problem there ... I felt unsafe walking the streets and even at the airport ... there seemed like there was a lot of desperation for money. We had some of the same homeless people hassle my colleague and I several times.

One homeless person, in particular, was a young caucasian woman in her mid 20's with one leg, who rolled around in a wheelchair, and appeared to be "pregnant" (and claimed to be with child).

I saw many mentally unstable homeless cursing on the streets with turrets syndrome.

I hate to laugh or point any act of poverty out, but I don't think this particular guy was homeless, just mentally challenged ...

One person that I saw within the Market St. area (near the Moscone Center) was cursing at his cigarettes ... telling the pack of cigarettes they were bad for him and they would fill his lungs with so much smoke he wouldn't be able to breathe.

Probably one of my most fun moments was going to Metreon (Sony's Entertainment complex) with my best friend and traveling companion. Playing vintage video games like Ms Pacman and Galaga were fun. I'll be revealing this to him as he reads this ... I think I did the best I have ever done at Ms Pacman ... he just thought it was because I'm tech savvy and smart. I made it all the way to Junior before running into a ghost ... this is 7 levels. I also did pretty well on Galaga and took my colleague out twice in air hockey ... but I have to admit ... I know of only one person that can beat me consistently in air hockey ... my brother. Here's my challenge: "Tell me the most number of points you think you can be beaten by and double it" ... yes I'm that arrogant about my air hockey skills!

One of the most interesting things we did at Metreon was play a game called "Hyperbowl" (Look to the left on the linked page to watch a video of this arcade game)

In this "virtual bowling" game you roll a real bowling ball that is suspended by an air cushion down "virtual lanes" that appear on a large screen in front of you. The lanes are typically streets found in cities ... we played San Francisco. As you roll the ball down the "street" you have to avoid trolley cars, hot dog stands, and even the occasional person. I would have thought it to be more fitting to have a one legged pregnant homeless girl ... just kidding. (I'm not really that insensitive)

One other quick note about Metreon that I thought was worth mentioning ... part of the store was an iPod accessory store and another part was a Macally peripherals area ... including Mac keyboards and mice. I just found this odd ... being in a Sony Store that had ALL OF THESE items Sony branded or had Sony counterparts. I think this is extremely telling of the market the iPod has ... even your competition has to sell your product!

Finally, I'm not sure if many caught that there was a bomb scare on Monday at a Starbucks near the Moscone Center ... my friend and I managed to be on the local NBC news (being in a live shot) of the Starbucks where this occurred. Add this to the list of wild and crazy things that happened on my drama list while in San Fran.


As for the expo:

I wanted to shake hands with everyone that I have done an Apple biz related article about ... while there. I did just that.

I had the pleasure of meeting Larry O' Conner from OWC ... it was interesting to say the least. We joked a bit about the story I did on him here at this BLOG a few months back. He remarked that I posted the story without hearing his side. Actually, we had a few back and forth emails about the topic, but really, I felt there wasn't another side. He corrected me ... he told me a very interesting side to the story that relates to the founding of this website and over 3 dozen posts on it. This meeting ended on a very positive note ... with Larry agreeing to do an email exchange and possible interview with this site. I look forward to bringing that interview to readers.

As for the OWC booth ... it was really neat ... offering people free repairs and upgrades (at the show) if you bought the parts from them (at the show).

I have been marketing a potential product to several companies over the past few months ... for a few of them ... I have traveled to their headquarters and met with the owners and senior engineers personally.

One of those companies is DLO (also known as Netalog) ... DLO's booth was nicely laid out and I shook hands and joked for a few minutes about Jackwhispers topics with the owner Jeff Grady. I also shook hands with Andrew Green, chief product design engineer ... and if I'm not mistaken ... VP. He quipped about a story that Paul Griffin (owner of Griffin Technology and competitor) had almost caused a scene the day before at their booth and all of DLO's product was "top shelf".

Griffin was another company I wanted to see. As for the Griffin booth ... it was rather large ... displaying all of Griffin's product lines. I recognized a few faces from " a product meeting" I had with them a few months back. Paul Griffin, one of the few people I came specifically to San Francisco to meet was completely inaccessible. Griffin had a booth constructed of orange cardboard and glass/acrylic shelving. In the center was a narrowly visible meeting room/office. Paul Griffin was inside this room the majority of the time I was at the exhibit hall. My colleague managed a "Hi Paul!" and got the "wait a moment finger" before he quickly shut the door to his office. I was somewhat angry by this lack of presence and interaction with customers. All senior management seemed to be present and interacting with exhibit attendees at other booths.

My colleague and I managed to snag a quick meeting with the Senior Product manager from Targus. It was very nice of her to wait around a few minutes so the two of us could meet her together. She pointed out that they were introducing two new products at the show. One was an FM transmitter that had a small pop out remote that fit into the fm transmitter. She said unlike other remotes from Griffin and DLO that only go 15 feet if you're lucky ... the Targus remote went 150 feet. She also showed us a unique iPod security device that locked the contents and locked the device to a table ... very interesting.

She also mentioned something that pleased my ears ... she said she is trying to get Targus to become more of an OEM. At this point, with the exception of the two products mentioned above ... Targus rebrands existing products from Asian sources.

I have to agree that this is a wise decision ... one of the things I saw common to the expo is that everything was the same ... no one besides Apple (and I suppose Targus) really announced unique products at the expo. Griffin had some unique items ... but they also seemed to have a lot of "others have done it" type products as well.

Notes about other exhibitors:

One other company I wanted to mingle with was XtremeMac - another potential business we wanted to discuss our product with. I had heard a little about Gary Bart, CEO ... through the grapevine. The XtremeMac booth was beautifully constructed ... it was placed right at the entrance to the exhibit hall. I wondered aloud, if they had to pay extra for that placement.

One of the interesting things to me about the XtremeMac booth was the presentation stage. They had a very slick talking guy with a wireless headset presenting XtremeMac products "infomercial style" using exaggerated terms like, "elegant, thought provoking design" These terms were being associated with speakers that sounded poor and looked like square boxes. I would recommend not going this route next year to XtremeMac ... because in my eye ... it cheapened any "elegance" XtremeMac's product lines have.

Alsoft: Alsoft was selling discounted discs of Diskwarrior. Note I said "discs", with no packaging and no documentation ... to me the packaging is worth $20- $25. If their software hadn't saved my life (in my Apple Tech biz) several times ... we'd see a lot more articles about Alsoft here on this BLOG.

Apple: I'll repost what I posted earlier ... the name MacBook Pro ... still is the worst name Apple has ever come up with. I enjoyed just holding something named "the PowerBook" ... it was fun to say ... You may have Latitude (Dell)... but I have Power! The MacBook Pro seems like a new square hamburger for order at the drive thru at MacDonald's ... or maybe a MacDonald's Gift Certificate Coupon Book.

I'll have a MacBook and some fries please!

Another problem is with the new iMac ... for years I have had to explain that PowerPC chips are essentially double the speed when compared to a Pentium. The prospects of Intel chips in new macs was exciting to me ... I wouldn't have to explain that any longer. Well now Apple sells a system with a 1.83Ghz processor and a 2.0Ghz processor (DOWN from 1.9Ghz and 2.1Ghz PowerPC processors) I realize the processor is a dual core now, but I still have to explain to my customers why Apple's new Intel processors are faster than the old PowerPC ... it's just a whole new hassle.

On the flip side: iLife 06 is now the most compelling reason to buy a computer (in particular ... a Mac) that ANY computer manufacturer has ever produced.


A reader email indicated that IDG World Expo and Macworld would make the money (if any could be made) at MacWorld Expo. I don't think this is true ... while I think Apple does pay for the space it uses on the show floor ... I'm almost 99.97% sure Apple makes money from the keynote watchers, the conference users, and combo package users. This does not include the immense number of preorder sales and media buzz Apple generates during MacWorld. The media attention alone is probably worth 100 million or so in advertising (and most likely MUCH more).

Another email asked why I didn't give a more detailed account of the expo ... two reasons ... one was that I felt other websites were doing that. The other reason is ... frankly ... this was a really trying 72 hour trip. I slept maybe 12 hours in a 144 hour period. Of course ... this will all make future trips easier ... as I had to deal with all the stresses of getting around by myself, whereas in previous years I had a sponsor or Apple arrange everything for me.

If you have any questions concerning the expo ... would like to do an interview ... or just have any comments in general ... feel free to email me.

I apologize for not being able to meet up with anyone while in San Fran ... but ... well ... did you read the story above?

[UPDATE] Interesting news reported by - A Macworld Wedding


In Russet Shadows said...

Yeah, SF has a huge homeless problem, and the reason they do is because they encourage it. Street urination is allowed by law. They have a "freedom to panhandle" act. Welfare benefits are generous, so of course, some people will sit around and soak up the funds. Tourists are only willing to put up with so much, and sooner or later, they'll find some other city to visit. I just hope the folks who live in SF wake up before things get any worse.

Anonymous said...

Downtown SF is a hole, particularly after business hours -- most of it smells of urine and is full of desperate people. Chinatown isn't much better -- if you want to experience the night life here, you need to head up to the Haight or down the Mission (or up to the Marina, if you into that upscale/tourist trap thing). You'll still see homeless people everywhere, but they're mostly harmless.

Anonymous said...

Interesting comments, thanks for posting them.

I think the disease you were trying to mention was "Tourette's Syndrome"...

Anonymous said...

I wasn't sure if you meant SFO or Oakland airport but you can actually take BART into SFO. You get dropped at the int'l terminal - then take a free shuttle bus. From SF, it's around $2-$3 bucks to SFO. To Oakland Airport, it's acxtually about the same cost but you need to take a shuttle ($1-$2) to the airport - the light rail is not complete yet.

Yea, SF pretty much shuts down at night except a couple streets and the nightclubs in SoMa - it's defintely not the East Coast

Anonymous said...

San Francisco, California, one of the most liberal cities in California. A good comparison would be New Orleans. Why wouldn't you expect to see homeless and feel unsafe? said...

I think your article was very interesting and showed me things I have not seen. I would like to gamble and sya i think I could beat your ass in galaga and maybe take you in air hockey though!! I really enjoyed your site and keep up the good work!

Beth Bennett