Posts From January 2012

I had the honor of being interviewed by one of the writers I read, Stephen Hackett, for his site, 512 Pixels. We talked mostly about my transition into a full-time writer and topics surrounding writing for the Web and going full time with it, etc.

Macworld 2012

This year marked my first time to attend the Macworld Expo. Rumors on the show floor were that roughly 20,000 people were in attendance. I met one gentleman who had been coming since 1987.

The event has undergone a lot of change just since 2009. After Apple’s last attendance that year, Macworld moved the traditional January date back to February in 2010. Then in 2011 they moved the event over to Moscone West. And for this year, 2012, they changed the name to “Macworld | iWorld”.

Nobody I spoke with liked the new name, “Macworld | iWorld”. It’s a bit awkward to say and to type. Pretty much everyone just called it “Macworld”. But the new name, awkward or not, is fitting. It goes hand-in-hand with what was happening on the show floor and with what has happened to the Apple ecosystem in general.

At the expo, the vast majority of the 250 booths were somehow related to iDevices. Many booths were selling iPhone and iPad cases, an entire section of the show floor was dedicated just to iOS apps, and I’ve never seen so many people using iPhones in my life. I even overheard a conversation about one lady who had just bought her first iPhone and was at Macworld in order to discover some new apps.

In years past, the entire event was dedicated to the Mac and to desktop software. Then the iPod-related booths began coming in, and now, just five years after the iPhone was announced, the OS X section of the show floor (though it was one of my favorite sections, filled with booths by many of my favorite 3rd-party devs) finds itself back in the corner of the Exhibit Hall. OS X and desktop software will always have a soft spot in my heart, and so in a way it was saddening to see such a relatively small amount of space relegated for what was once Apple’s flagship operating system.

In short, Macworld | iWorld mirrored what the charts have been saying for quite some time: iOS is the future of Apple.

The Macworld brand holds too much history and clout to be dropped altogether (I assume). But if it did not, then I could see the next change for this event being to change the name altogether to just “iWorld”. Surely the day will come when the majority of attendees at the Expo will own an iPhone and/or iPad, but not a Mac.

* * *

In addition to being my first Macworld event, this was also the first time I’ve spent any significant amount of time in Moscone West.

Moscone West is a beautiful building. It is large and open, full of natural light, clean, and easy to find your way around in. When I walked into the Exhibit Hall on Thursday morning, the whole room smelled like a newly-unpacked Nintendo Entertainment System — you know? that fresh gadget smell?

The show floor was lined with wall-to-wall blue carpet. The vendor booths were arranged side-by-side and back-to-back in order to create the 9 aisles that attendees walked up and down. It was jam packed with people every time I was in there.

I had an iFan pass that got me access to the show floor and to the panels and sessions being held upstairs, but only a few piqued my interest enough to pull me away from meeting with people downstairs in the Exhibit Hall — like most attendees, the majority of my time at Macworld Expo was spent walking the show room floor. Moreover, many of my favorite panels were held on the Macworld Live stage, which was located in the back of the Exhibit Hall.

The three sessions I did catch were: – 40 Tips in 40 Minutes with David Sparks, Merlin Mann, and Brett Terpstra; – The State of Apple live panel with Jason Snell, Andy Ihnatko, and John Gruber; and – Less Than Perfect Apps live panel with Lex Friedman, John Gruber, Dave Wiskus, Guy English, Glenn Fleishman, and Paul Kafasis.

Each of these sessions were packed with standing room only. We arrived about 30 minutes early to each session in order to get front row seats. After each presentation ended, it was always an honor to shake hands with some of these guys for the first time.

Additionally, many of my favorite 3rd-party developers were there as exhibitors: Smile software, Studio Neat, Realmac, Flexibits, BusyMac, Omni, Rogue Amoeba, and others. It was great to meet these guys as well.

According to the event guide, there were roughly 250 booths. The first booth I noticed when entering the Exhibit Hall was the Omni Group booth. They were right in front by the main entrance and basically had a small OmniLivingRoom set up with tables, iPads, iMacs, and a giant Samsung TV. Their booth was filled with Omni employees that I had the privilege of talking to, and they regularly had guests give software demos via the television. They were passing out Omni-branded M&Ms, utility notebooks, and large manilla envelopes the size of an iPad 2.

For each booth I visited, one of the default questions I would ask was how the show is going. Every exhibitor replied that it was going great. Many of the booths were selling physical goods — such as Doxie, Studio Neat, and the ōlloclip guys — and a few exhibitors let me know that they had more than paid for their booth space through retail sales. A lot of booths even sold out of their inventory.

To me, the best booths were those staffed by the actual owners or developers. I got a demo from the guys at Rage Software and left impressed by one of their SEO apps. Nik Fletcher gave us a demo of Clear. Dan and Tom were manning the Studio Neat booth and selling Cosmonauts faster than I could write this sentence. And I got to meet Greg and Jean at the Smile booth; it’s nice to shake hands with someone who’s awesome software has literally helped you shave hours of your work week.

The Polk Audio booth became my default conversation starter. They had a giant section in the middle of the showroom floor in order to sell their new sports in-ear headphones and had a skier, a snowboarder, and a gymnast all doing tricks and flips on a big trampoline. It was a blast to watch.

What’s New?

Macworld Expo placed a strong emphasis on apps and products that were launching that weekend during the event.

Among other great products, the most notable Macworld announcements in recent years have been the iPhone and the MacBook Air. However, now that Apple is no longer in attendance at Macworld there is not nearly the same large draw for people around the world to look to Macworld for announcements about what is new.

In the Event Guide, on the page listing all of the exhibitors on the show floor, a special “First Looks” icon was placed next to each exhibitor’s name if they were launching a product at Macworld | iWorld. From the brochure:

The Macworld | iWorld First Looks Program is all about highlighting new-to-market products that will debut at the show, and helping attendees and the media learn more about them. During Macworld | iWorld, First Looks product walls will be on display throughout the Moscone Center to help attendees identify and locate the products being introduced. Be the first to see and test all the new products launching at Macworld | iWorld.

I didn’t see the product walls during the event, but it did seem clear to me that Macworld was making a concerted effort to reward companies who launched something new during the Expo.

In addition to the First Looks stuff, I learned during the event that for an app or a product to be eligible for a Macworld Best of Show award it had to launch during the event. Exhibitors with booths at Macworld who had launched a new app last fall were, unfortunately, ineligible for the award.

It’s important for Macworld | iWorld to be more than just a consumer-facing exposition event, and encouraging vendors to launch new products at the event is a great way to keep cultivating Macworld as a seedbed for breaking news.

* * *

From a professional standpoint, attending Macworld was a no-brainer. As a writer, meeting peers in my field and developers whose products I write about was invaluable. Relatedly, I didn’t crack my MacBook Air open one time during the whole event. All the notes I took, all the links I posted, all the writing I did, I did from my iPhone. How fitting, eh?

From a personal standpoint, the conference felt more like a vacation than a business trip. All my time in San Francisco was spent with friends and peers. Either hanging out and walking the exhibit hall, sitting in on panels, visiting the Apple campus, or sharing a meal or a coffee.

I had many conversations with exhibitors, attendees, and press folk, and nobody I met or spoke with was disappointed that they were there. In short, Macworld 2012 was a fantastic show filled with fantastic folks. I’ll see you again in 2013.

Federico Viticci:

The iOS-ification of OS X is, at this point, inevitable, and anyone who doesn’t see it, or tries to neglect, is either software-blind or has some kind of interest in that way of thinking.

You’ve got: (a) apps that started as iPhone apps which then became iPad apps which then also became Mac apps (Reeder being the paramount example); and (b) Apple itself making more and more of the features and designs in OS X feel and look like those in iOS.

And it’s only at the beginning…

I’m giving this a shot in place of the built-in WordPress search engine.

Recorded yesterday before a live studio audience in our hotel lobby while attending Macworld in San Francisco.

Brought to you by, Verses, who is doing a giveaway. Details for that are in the show notes.

Daniel Markovitz wrote the article I’ve been mulling on for a while. In short: a concrete schedule is more powerful a tool for getting things done than an unordered list of tasks. Unlike Markovitz, I use both. I have a daily to-do list and a routine schedule. The to-do list is the “what”, the schedule is the “when”.

Miguel Endara, the artist behind the “Hero” video, was interviewed on The Indistry:

Originally I was planning to photograph him with glass on his face, but that was difficult without a good camera and it wouldn’t get good hi-res of the skin and the pores. So I thought the only way to do that inexpensively would be to xerox it or scan it. So used my scanner to scan his face in hi-res of almost 600 dpi which provided me with immense detail.

I did so many scans that I ended up just putting them together and kind of making my own final image. So the look you have know is not of one scan, but of probably 2 or 3 scans put together.

Matt Brian:

US mobile operator AT&T today announced its fourth quarter financial results, declaring that it saw huge growth in mobile broadband sales and smartphone activations, with the iPhone accounting for 81% of all smartphones activated by the carrier.


Federico Viticci:

There’s a lot of weirdness and inconsistencies going on in some Apple apps and interfaces, but the Home screen is the prime example of a user interface meant for 2007 which was subsequently patched and refined and patched again to accomodate new functionalities introduced in iOS.

His conclusion is spot on:

Apple needs to tear apart the whole concept and rebuild it from the ground up.

I know that after using Android 4.0 for a while, my iPhone’s home screen felt so very cramped and dated. The Home screen doesn’t just need to be a springboard to get to apps, in some ways it needs to be an app in and of itself.

Ben Brooks, Brett Kelly, Stephen Hackett, and I snuck into one of the side studios to shoot a quick video podcast before the expo starts.

The Value of a Handshake

As an indie tech writer, I mostly communicate with my peer community through tweets, emails, instant messages, direct messages, Instagrams, and text messages.

That’s why I’m in San Francisco this week for Macworld. Though I will surely write about the event and what transpires this week, that’s not my primary purpose for attending. I’m not here as a journalist with the goal of covering this Apple-centric event so much as I am here to meet the Mac nerds I am privileged to work alongside all year long.

A handshake and a “nice to meet you” is worth so much more than an @reply. A conversation over a cup of coffee is better than two dozen emails.

I’m not here for the event, but for the folks who’ll be filling the sidewalks and the Expo Floor. Putting faces to bylines and building real-world relationships with those who I read and write about make my job back home far more enjoyable.

John Gruber:

What’s satisfying about Apple’s current success is that it’s proof that you can succeed wildly by focusing first and foremost on making great products. That design does matter.

Stephen Hackett:

Talking about iPad apps in line at Starbucks isn’t weird anymore.

Adam Lashinsky writing for Fortune about the extremely secretive and productive culture within Apple. Lashinsky writes:

Almost nobody describes working at Apple as being fun. In fact, when asked if Apple is a “fun” place, the responses are remarkably consistent. “People are incredibly passionate about the great stuff they are working on,” said one former employee. “There is not a culture of recognizing and celebrating success. It’s very much about work.” Said another: “If you’re a die-hard Apple geek, it’s magical. It’s also a really tough place to work.” A third similarly dodged the question: “Because people are so passionate about Apple, they are aligned with the mission of the company.”

Reading Lashinsky’s article, I have to wonder if working at Apple is something I would love because of the strong emphasis on work ethic, productivity, excellence in what you do, and respect for everyone’s time, or hate because of the high-stress and non-personal environment.

The article is based on his book, Inside Apple, which hits shelves today.

Great piece by Matthew Alexander that is along the same lines as Topolsky’s article on The Verge last week about too many gadget choices.

Dom Leca, co-founder of Sparrow:

How did you apply for your job? How do you negotiate a deal? How do you review your employee work? What tool are you using when you’re sending message to your loved ones? SMS, Facebook messages, What’s app, Kik are all great new means of communication but mail still has its own territory. Email definitely needs to evolve. Sparrow 1.x is an attempt to marginally change habits. […]

We are trying to make the experience simpler and more enjoyable. This is the first step. Now that we have a pretty solid technical basis, we want to move on a 2.0 version where we can change the paradigm of mail: the way people think of it and use it.

My thanks to MindNode for sponsoring the RSS feed this week.

MindNode is an elegant, easy-to-use mind mapping tool for Mac and iOS. Whether you’re brainstorming for your next project, organizing your life, or planning your vacation, MindNode lets you collect, structure, and expand your ideas. And thanks to built-in Dropbox and WiFi sharing, even your biggest ideas can go anywhere your iPhone does.

MindNode is easy mind mapping for your Mac, iPad, and iPhone. Try out Mindnode Pro and MindNode touch today!

Their best quarter ever, and not by a small margin. Last quarter, more than 75% of their revenue came from iOS devices.

Here’s an interesting project on Kickstarter. Josh Milas and Alex Obenauer are seeking to re-imagine email by developing an email program that’s melded with a to-do app. The premiss is that the vast majority of your incoming emails are actionable in some way, shape, or form.

Lots of iBooks Ideas from Matt Gemmell. I’d add to the list magazines. I see no reason why Wired, The New Yorker, et al. couldn’t publish their magazines as iBooks instead. They would still be just as design-y and interactive but more usable and (in theory) smaller file sizes. Also, they’ll look better on a Retina Display iPad.

I noticed the snappiness right away. Especially with page turns. (Via Marco.)

Will Kujawa, a student at Oklahoma State:

In a few years Apple could dominate the [college] classroom similar to how Microsoft dominates enterprise.

Will also talks about how the majority of Apple products in his college classrooms are MacBooks, not iPads. That makes sense because for a student who needs a computer to take notes, do research, and complete papers and other projects, an iPad is not a replacement for a laptop or desktop computer.

A computer has been the standard college-student gadget for decades. It used to be desktops, now it’s laptops, and Apple wants it to become iPads.

Apple wants the iPad to be seen as a computer replacement. And so I can’t help but wonder if positioning the iPad as a replacement for textbooks is also a subtle way to slowly introduce iPads as replacements for laptops.

It’s like a twist to the Halo Effect — instead of an iPod leading to a MacBook purchase, buying an iPad for casual usage leads to keeping the iPad for more serious usage. It’s already happening in the professional sphere (examples: I, II, III).

As Stephen Hackett said, last week’s announcements had Steve Jobs’ fingerprints all over them. now has a dashboard RSS reader, with the ability to Like, Follow, and Reblog posts.

(Via Jonathan Christopher.)

Fraser Speirs gives a good overview of the good and bad regarding the new iBooks textbooks, iBooks Author, and iTunes U:

Apple already revolutionized education when it invented the iPad. While iBooks textbooks are a bridge from the past to the future—and we do need a way to get to the future—they are not that future. If Henry Ford had been an educational publisher, his customers would have asked for electronic textbooks instead of faster horses.

Michael E. Cohen:

Having access to good instructional resources is always better for students and for teachers than not having such access. And although interactive multimedia textbooks of the type that iBooks Author makes so very easy to prepare and to publish probably won’t make a bad teacher into a good one or a poor student into a candidate for valedictorian, it is much better to have them available for teachers and for students than not.

Do not buy this game if you value your free time.