MacWorld 2011 – Sort of a Yawner with a Few Moments of Wakefulness

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I have been going to the MacWorld Expo for many years now and I’m really sad to see it losing much of its excitement. When Apple was there, showcasing new products and innovations, there was a vibrancy and energy. Ever since Apple pulled out of the Expo, I feel that it has been going downhill. Apple provided the weight to drive the show, and there were many large vendors who helped as well. With Apple nowhere to be seen, having moved most of their large announcements to their Developer Conference and press events, MacWorld 2011 to me seemed to be just another tradeshow.

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But don’t get me wrong, there were a few diamonds in the rough that I saw at the show that peaked my interest and deserve a bit of mention. I only spent about 2 hours at the show and had to rush through many of the booths. There were plenty of interesting Mac-related or compatible products to be seen and here are a few that I felt should be mentioned.

Nuance (Dragon Dictation)

I spent a little bit of time with some of the folks from Nuance, a voice to text company (dramatically over simplified definition). Their technology is powering many software and even hardware devices that we have. If you are familiar with Siri (purchased by Apple), or Dragon Search or Dragon Dictation or even the Amazon voice-enable product search, you are using Nuance’s voice recognition technology. It’s very impressive. Nuance also has desktop software for Mac and PC that allows you to fully control your computer as well as dictate to transcription. I hope to take a closer look at Dragon Dictate in the future.

Nuance also recently released a Software Developer Kit which allows for developers to license and integrate Nuance’s technology into their own applications. I see the possibilities of this to be great. Below is an interview that I did at MacWorld that talks a bit more about it:

For those interested in more information on the Mobile SDK from Nuance, you can read more information here.

ZAGG Mate iPad Keyboard Case

There were lots of iPad and iPhone cases at MacWorld, part of the reason why I felt the show lacked some excitement. Past shows had plenty of cases (too many in fact), and this one was of no exception. So to find a case that was unique and innovative was definitely encouraging. I’m currently reviewing a few Bluetooth iPad keyboard cases (from Sena, TyPad, Kensington and soon Zagg). The ZAGG Mate was one of the better cases and keyboards that I saw.

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Small, tight form factor with a larger keyboard:

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And it supports portrait mode:

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I won’t go into any more details as I will be reviewing it in a few weeks.

HP Envy All-in-One Printer

Another innovative product was something that I saw at the HP booth. There isn’t that much that can be done with printers, or so I thought. But when you “internet-enable” them, you open a lot more possibilities. I got a quick demo of the HP Envy which is a printer that is quite “connected” so to speak. You can assign an email address to it and email documents you want it to print from anywhere. Also, it is fully compatible with Apple’s iOS feature of printing from iPhones and iPads.

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The screen has a touch interface and firmware can be downloaded and installed easily from the interface.

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Another thing that I liked is the small footprint and glossy, elegant design.

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Of course, I only spent a few minutes getting a demo of the Envy. I hope to explore that product a bit more in the future.

iFusion Smart Phone

Another potentially interesting and nicely designed product that I quickly looked at was the iFusion smart phone which basically turns your iPhone into a desktop device. It also has “business” capabilities, allowing you to actually integrate it in fully with a PBX system.

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While the base is a bit bulky, I think we may start seeing more devices like this. Honestly, I’m not sure of the value of this for the home consumer, but the integration into a corporate environment might have some potential.

And Some “Web-lebrity” Spotting

No tradeshow would be complete with out a celebrity, or in this case, a weblebrity spotting. As I was walking the floor, I saw Leo Laporte from TWIT. I captured a few shots of Leo in action as well.

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Nice gear!

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And the “other side” of Leo.

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MacWorld Expo in a Nutshell

I only just barely cracked the nutshell of MacWorld 2011. There were plenty of vendors touting their latest and greatest offerings. However, I personally only found a few things that really got my interest. I do hope that Apple reconsiders exhibiting at MacWorld. I think by not being there, they are potentially alienating many of their followers and vendors. I have a feeling that without Apple’s weight, the expo will continue to shrink in size and lose much of the vibrancy that the conference used to have.

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There are still many reasons to attend MacWorld as an interested consumer, a developer or even a vendor. There are educational tracks (I didn’t have time to attend any) and seminars and meetings that take place throughout the expo. I just hope that in the future, Apple breaths life back into what used to be a vibrant community instead of trying to only do it themselves.

Just looking at some of the buzzwords in the banner above makes me scratch my head a bit: face to face, developers, apple – related products, accessories, music, new products, shopping, training, creativity, innovation, inspiration and video. Of those words, I only saw indication of a few of these being actualized at the conference and I have written about some of the exceptions to the lack of innovation and excitement above. Come on Apple, bring back your love and support of a conference that kept the dream alive during more skeptical and difficult times. It’s this community that help make you where you are today and I commend all of the vendors who WERE at MacWorld this year for making this happen, even if I didn’t find too may of the offerings that exciting.

HTD says: What were your thoughts of MacWorld and the announcements coming from it?

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Michael Sheehan (“HighTechDad”) is an avid technologist, writer, journalist, content marketer, blogger, tech influencer, social media pundit, loving husband and father of 3 beautiful girls living in the San Francisco Bay Area. This site covers technology, consumer electronics, Parent Tech, SmartHomes, cloud computing, gadgets, software, hardware, parenting “hacks,” and other tips & tricks.

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