Innovation High, Attendance Dips at Macworld 2012

Despite all the fresh new ideas on display for the Apple world from exuberant third-party companies, it matters quite a bit that the Apple mothership isn't here with her children.

SAN FRANCISCO--For the third consecutive year since the event began way back in 1985, Apple was nowhere to be found at the Macworld 2012 conference and expo here at the Moscone West center.

Despite all the fresh new ideas on display for the Apple world from exuberant third-party companies, it matters quite a bit that the mothership isn't here with her children.

Attendance is down noticeably over 2010 and previous years, and there are fewer vendors showing their wares. There is more room to roam in the main expo hall, parking is easier to find, and that's certainly good for attendees.

Although this still ranks as one of the most interesting and innovative of all the IT-related shows each year, the intensity has ratcheted down. Apple reported a high of 45,572 attendees in 2007; this year's numbers aren't yet available, but early estimates are that about 22,000 people will attend the show this week, IDG World Expo told eWEEK.

/images/stories/iPad.holder.jpgApple, They Want You Back

Apple's attendance here would have made a major difference. It doesn't seem like it would be that much to ask that the company that invented Macs could at least have a booth at an event called Macworld, but Apple's success in business marketing is not to be questioned; it certainly knows what it's doing.

Apple co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs, legendary as a micro-manager, was not a big fan of this annual show, which he saw as more of a distraction to his own innovators and marketeers than anything else. The late IT pioneer much preferred that his company focus on its own regularly scheduled software development conferences and let the marketing people announce new products via special media events when needed, rather than have to stage an obligatory large convention per calendar year.

There has been a developers' section of Macworld for a number of years, but it really had taken a back seat previously. This year, however, host IDG World Expo for the first time has broken out the iWorld developer conference from the peripheral-focused expo and assigned it to a separate location on Level 3 of Moscone.

In this way, serious app developers can meet up, hear presentations on how to work with Siri, for example, and advance their knowledge of the Apple appdev world without having to elbow their way around the crowds gawking at sparkly iPhone cases.

Development sessions included "Getting to Know Siri," "40 OS X Tips in 40 Minutes," "The Lion Upgrade Guide," and "Hidden Secrets of Quicktime OS X." "Appalooza: Top 25 iPad 2 Apps for Social Media" was a popular one.

As is befitting an Apple event, there were a number of musical and video performances to show off Garage Band and the Mac multimedia applications. Actor Jonathan Frakes, well known for his role as Commander William T. Riker in "Star Trek," was a session speaker.

Popping the Top Off Imagination

Strange new products can be found every year at this event, but two of the most unusual are causing a lot of talk in 2012. One is a combination iPhone case and beverage bottle-opener call the Intoxicase, which--with the help of a special, freely downloadable iPhone application--helps the user keep count of the bottles he or she has opened, helps them find their car via a GPS/map feature, or helps them call a taxi if all else fails late at night. College students will love this item.

You can view a video demo of Intoxicase via YouTube here.

The second most-talked about item isn't necessarily just for iOS devices. It is a rather high-end audio speaker by a Taiwan-based company call Alljack. This speaker is designed to resemble a bouquet of flowers; it is jewel-encrusted, handmade with teakwood and astounding to see. The price is also astounding: $68,000 each.

That would be for mono, of course. For stereo, you'd need at least two, so poneying up $136,000 for a pair of speakers would probably be in the domain of the so-called "1 percent" of the world's richest folks. Strangely, Alljack wasn't demonstrating their sound quality at the show on Jan. 26; one can only assume the audio quality is high.

Cloud computing and more enterprise-related applications have worked their way into the consumer-focused Apple genre. New virtual desktops from Splashtop and Nivio, for example, make running Windows on iOS and Mac OS a piece of cake.

Cloud business tools and applications from Neat scored highly in interest. Portable wireless-connected storage for iPads and iPhones from HyperDrive and others also are on display. In all about 220 companies are in attendance at the show, which continues through Jan. 28.

You can check out more information about the event at this site.

Editor's note: This story was updated to include revised attendance information.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...