Macworld Observations


The company I work for is a big fan of Macworld so while most companies were off at CES I spent my week in San Francisco at Macworld.

I hadn’t been to San Francisco in about a decade and was pretty shocked to find the city had aged pretty badly in that time. Homeless people were all over the streets everywhere we went. You literally couldn’t avoid them. When they weren’t lining the sidewalk they were walking around with signs openly begging for money at the intersections. The famed Fisherman’s Wharf is a mess. The restaurants are extremely in need of updating. The food is still good but the facilities are in bad shape. My meal at Scoma’s was typical. 70’s wall paneling was all around and the facility has been expanded so often that traversing it is an experience in itself. The food was very good but extremely overpriced. Surf and turf for $68? A lobster tail for $55? Who are they kidding? At home I can get a whole Maine Lobster, 3 pounds worth, for $20-$30. $55 would get me a 4 pound lobster at one of the best lobster restaurants in the heart of Manhattan. I think the cup of soup I had before my meal was over $10.

The wharf itself was populated by a sparse array of barely seaworthy boats that appeared to be there more to give the impression of a working wharf than the real thing. The smell of rotting fish permeated the area and if you happened to look at the water you saw only a thick green liquid that I wouldn’t even dunk a hand into on a bet. The cable cars were noisy, dated and really dirty.

We did have a funny experience at the mall at Nordstrom’s. Whoever designed that mall should be locked into it and forced to actually traverse the thing. We were looking for the “restaurant row” that the map says is on the 4th floor. We then went up an escalator and had to walk half way around the floor to reach the next escalator to go up again. This goes on seemingly forever. When we reached what we thought was the 4th floor we found ourselves on the first floor of Nordstrom’s with no food anywhere in sight. The floor was called “N1” obviously short for Nordstrom’s first floor. We then went up to the top of the mall only to find no food there either. We finally asked someone at a kiosk where these restaurants were and they told us that the 4th floor is actually the N1 floor. Back we went but still no sign of the restaurants. We stopped at a counter to ask about their whereabouts and no one knew what we were talking about. Finally someone came over and said, “Oh, you must mean in the new mall…. That’s through over that way around that corner and through the alley.” Oh boy…. We headed in that direction and emerged into an entirely different mall area where we ate lunch at a place called Lake Creek if memory serves. I couldn’t believe the food we got there. I had the best mussels I’ve had in years at a mall restaurant.

What bugs me about all this is that I used to really look forward to my trips there and was disappointed that none of the events I go to are there. Now I have to wonder if this is, in part, why those events are no longer there.

Anyway, Macworld was at the Moscone Convention Center and it was a pretty decent event. The show floor was pretty laid back and filled with average-sized booths. It’s certainly a major step away from the game shows and larger shows like CES that I’m used to.

The big talk of the show was, of course, the iPhone. People couldn’t stop talking about it. I suspect that every big Apple fan out there will jump on it but then sales will start to fall off. It’s an interesting phone with some novel ideas but it doesn’t seem fully thought-out.

First of all, the battery is embedded into the product and unreachable by the user without dismantling the entire phone. If you need to replace the battery you’ll essentially need to send it into Apple for repair. For a device that doubles as a media player, this doesn’t make any sense to me. I’ll spend the flight playing music only to land and find I can’t make a call because I’ve run the the battery down. With a similar device I’d just pop in a previously charged second battery and be good to go. Not here.

The entire device is LCD-driven. There’s almost no hard buttons on it. This presents a few problems. In the home theater remote world this has already played out. Philips has their high-end Pronto remote that’s mainly an LCD-driven device. However every new version of it includes more physical buttons than the last one. The lack of any real buttons means that users won’t get instant physical feedback on button presses and will struggle to learn where every dynamic feature ends up. The interface they came up with is well thought-out. I just hope the jump into an all-LCD approach doesn’t undo all their other good thinking.

The other thing about it that I just don’t get is the two year exclusive they’ve given to Cingular. I’m from the Northeast so that pretty much ruins it for me. Cingular service is hit and miss around my way. Verizon is the dominant player here so I don’t expect to be running into iPhones very often.

The rest of the show was pretty much typical. Nothing major came out of it aside from iPhone. My biggest regret is that I didn’t make it to the Metreon to see the Titanic exhibition that’s currently there. I passed by it every morning and every night on the way to and from the show from my room at the Marriot but was just too tired each night to make it. Oh to be 20 again.

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