I’m in San Francisco, but not expressly for the purpose of attending Macworld. Moscone Center is on the way from my hotel to the OSAF offices, and it’s easy to get a free exhibit pass, so I managed to drop into Macworld for an hour. When I was in college, I used to go to the Macworld that was in Boston, and when we lived in Silicon Valley, I used to go to Macworld for a day. During the years that I worked at Apple, I even worked booth duty in the Apple/Newton booth. In that sense, I’m not a stranger to Macworld. At the same time, I’ve been doing stuff related to Java or open source since I left Apple, and I think that this is the first Macworld that I’ve been to (if you can count an hour) since then. It’s also the first Macworld that I’ve been to since the iPod came out. So I felt a little bit of culture shock as I went in to the exhibits. It feels, well, very commercial. There were tons of companies who were just selling stuff at discounts. B&H Photo had two separate booth areas. I’d say that about half of the booths were iPod related. I don’t remember Shure and Etymotics having booths at previous Macworlds, but they are there this year. Of course, there were also the usual Macintosh hardware and software vendors, with their large booths and theaters. And it goes without saying that the biggest and most centrally located booth belonged to Apple. Since it was the second day of the exhibits, there were no surprise discoveries to be made. Due to RSS, I’d already heard about the products that were being announced, so I took brief glances, and refused most of the product literature sheets. There were a few times when I stopped to look at products that just have to be seen. Things like monitors and color printers just need to be seen in person to get an accurate feel for them. Since Duncan has been writing about the HP 9180, I stopped to see what the fuss was about. One the whole, though, the web has drastically reduced my need to go stalk the floor at Macworld.
What the web can’t replace, however, is the social component that surrounds an event like Macworld. Tuesday night I was fortunate enough to go to dinner with a small number of Macintosh developers. The setting was small enough that you could hear all the conversations and ask questions (if you dared). Again, it was a bit of a culture shock (although not totally foreign, as I have done my share of commercial software development in the past), and it was interesting to me to listen to the conversations and hear the experiences. I’m not sure I’ve ever been in on something like this before — I worked at Apple and big companies, and I worked for myself as a small business owner, but I appreciated the chance to hear about the life of the small software developers that make the Mac software ecosystem great.