Macworld Reboot

My yearly pilgrimage to Macworld is now complete. This year it was special for several reasons. While I had great plans to report more regularly while in San Francisco, I was having way too much fun to stop and write. Regardless, I’m now back with a full night’s sleep and ready to report.

Going In

Since Apple’s announcement last year, the entire Internet has proclaimed Macworld as “dead.” Without waiting to see how IDG would respond to this challenge, many influential technology writers declared their verdict that it was simply impossible for this conference to continue without Apple’s continued participation. Indeed, for some, the “inevitable” implosion of Macworld became sport. I wrote about my opinions on this several months ago.

While the Internet was busy making funeral arrangements for Macworld, the IDG team quietly transformed the event. This started at Macworld 2009 with the standing room only session to discuss the future. Several suggestions were made and the IDG staff was present and taking notes. They heard and they acted.

The argument going in was whether or not the conference was sustainable without Apple’s continued participation. IDG took a lot of steps to answer this question in the affirmative. Paul Kent and his team added “feature speakers” to address timely and interesting topics to the Mac community. They expanded the conference sessions. They moved the date and worked with the vendors to secure their attendance. Put simply, they worked there assess off to save Macworld.

Because one of my sessions was early on the first day, I arrived on Monday, the night before the conference began. I gave (and attended) several conferences on Tuesday and Wednesday that were fantastic. Nevertheless, there was an underlying tension about Thursday, when the exposition opened. I wasn’t sure if anyone would show up.

Thursday was the big day. Except for taking an hour to watch the David Pogue presentation (which was brilliant), I was in lockdown mode preparing for my “Mac at Work” session. It was 4:00 PM before I could make my way to the exposition Hall and as I rode the escalator down, I knew the future of Macworld may be foretold with the Expo Hall attendance. The escalator provides an elevated look at the exposition hall and as I looked into the room, I was stunned by the crowd. There were so many people, you could not even tell the color of the carpet. In short, Paul Kent and his IDG team saved Macworld. Here are my observations of how they did it.

Feature Speakers

Several feature speakers were in attendance to provide standing room only presentations that were educational, entertaining, and thought-provoking. Indeed, there were so many feature speakers that you could have spent the entire conference attending their sessions. Two of my favorites were David Pogue and John Gruber. There were several more. The point is, with just an expo hall pass, attendees had the ability to see some of the sharpest technology minds. It did not require you to purchase an expensive pass and did not require you to wake up to 2:00 AM to stand in line.

This clearly was IDG’s response to no Apple Keynote. I think it was a good one. This allowed the attendees at large to see these fantastic speakers and I, for one, got much more out of listening to John Gruber speak about the 10 biggest issues facing Apple’s future than Phil Schiller expounding on the benefits of

The Conference

This year was the first time I was able to attend the educational conference. It was outstanding. I was able to spend 10 hours learning AppleScript from Sal Soghoian. I learned about the future of electronic music on portable devices from Ge Wang and power user tips from Dan Frakes that I could spend months geeking my way through. Looking through the conference schedule, your challenge is not to find the one session that interests you but instead decide which of the many sessions would help you today.

My sessions went well. I was particularly happy to see a full room for the “Mac at Work” session. In it, we went through software and networking solutions unique to the Mac. I received a lot of positive feedback from attendees afterwards and look forward to expanding on the subject next year.

The conference was a wonderful experience and highly recommended to anyone who wants to get more of their Mac.

The Exposition

The exposition was smaller than last year. The booth sizes for the big companies, like Microsoft, also got smaller. The floor traffic, however, was insane. You really had to be patient with the most interesting vendors. With the reduced size, the exposition also became easier to manage. Where last year it would take two days to cover the entire expo, this year it could have been done in one. This made the sustained traffic throughout the expo all that more impressive. I spoke with several vendors who stated their sales numbers were higher this year than last. Everyone I spoke to said they’d be back and I’m guessing several of those who sat out this year will also be back. I’ll be posting my thoughts on some of the more interesting vendors in the coming weeks.

I also had the thrill of recording a live session of the Mac Power Users on the show floor. The attendees seemed to enjoy the show and Katie and I had the pleasure of meeting several listeners after the recording.

Photo: Allison Sheridan

About Apple

There was a subtle change that took place in the debate about Apple on the floor of the Macworld exposition. People disagreed on whether or not the conference was better without Apple but no longer did people argue whether or not it could continue without the Apple. The show can thrive next year without Apple. (And that is even before all the iPad case makers get wound up.) My friend, Adam Christianson, phrased it best. This year was a Macworld reboot. As I walked on the show floor the first time, I almost expected to hear that all too-familiar chime. The conference is certainly different than before. Some of the changes are for the worse but a lot of them are for the better. Regardless, the interest I saw last week proved the conference is sustainable.

Why Should We Care?

Macworld really is about the community. The parties this year seemed particularly celebratory. I think everyone was relieved that IDG pulled off the show without Apple. This is a good thing in light of the fact Apple appears eager to distance itself from its own community. In the end, Apples absence doesn’t matter. Every year at Macworld I get to meet with some of my very best friends and make several new ones. Mac users, as a whole, are creative, compassionate, and enthusiastic people. It is this magic sauce that really made Macworld a success in 2010 and will do so again in 2011.

Long Live Macworld.

Macworld Conference – Day 1

Today was day 1 of the Macworld conference. My Numbers Lab session had a full room and went well. I also was able to spend several hours learning Applescript from Sal Soghoian who did a great job demystifying several topics. Finally, I got the chance to meet Bill Atkinson, who was on the original Apple Macintosh team, wrote MacPaint, QuickDraw, and Hypercard. In addition to bringing the Macintosh to life, Bill is an amazing photographer. He has combined his interests to release an iPhone application, Bill Atkinson PhotoCard. In it you can create email postcards using Bill’s own photography (or your own pictures) and embellish them with stickers and custom stamps. Even better, for $1.50 you can have the card sent automatically via US postal delivery. The card samples are thick, glossy, heavy cardstock and look fantastic. It is great having some Bill Atkinson software on my Apple device again.

Dave at Macworld

I’ve got boots on the ground in San Francisco and am ready for Macworld. Here is my Macworld coverage plan:

The Links


I will be putting with messages and pictures. I ‘m going to be taking (and giving) several sessions and plan to twitter often.

MacSparky Blog

Expect several MacSparky posts throughout the week

Mac Power Users

We are recording live on February 13 and should have a show up soon thereafter.

The Schedule

Numbers Lab

February 9 – 10:00 a.m.
Moscone West Hall – Room 2011

This 2 hour session is going to turn you into an iWork Numbers ninja as we manage the (fictional?) Area 51 Tin Foil Hat Club.

Mac At Work

February 11 – 1:00 p.m.
Moscone West Hall – Room 2004

This session is all about making you look great at work using your Macintosh to run circles around your co-workers and impress your clients and bosses.

Mac Roundtable

February 13 – 10:30 a.m.
Expo Hall Main Stage

The Mac Roundtable gang is going to reunite again to share our take on Macworld. This is a really fun group.

Mac Power Users

February 13 – 2:15 p.m.
Expo Hall Main Stage

Katie and I will be talking about our own “Best in Show” picks and share other observations from Macworld Expo.

Otherwise I will be enjoying the sights and sounds of Macworld. Keep an eye out for me.

Macworld Numbers Lab


There is still room in my Macworld Numbers lab scheduled for February 9 at 10:00 a.m. The session is going to explore iWork’s Numbers by focussing on relevant spreadsheets related to the mythical Area 51 Tin Foil Hat Club. We’ll be tracking things like abductions and tin foil hat sales, having a few laughs, and learning Numbers along the way. Also, you can get a discount for any Macworld session using the coupon code “DSPARKS”.

Macworld Feature Speakers 2010


The Macworld feature speaker list is looking pretty good. If you are heading to San Francisco next month it is time to start filling in your dance card.

Thursday, February 11

9:00am – 10:00am = Late Night with David Pogue

11:00am – 12:00pm = Macworld DEMO: Best of Show, Matt Marshall to host

2:00pm – 3:00pm = Q&A with Kevin Smith

4:30pm – 5:30pm = The Photoshop 20th Anniversary, David Biedny to host


Friday, February 12

9:00am – 10:00am = Revolution from the Rest of Us, Guy Kawasaki

2:00pm – 3:00pm = Macworld Live! with Leo Laporte

4:30pm – 5:30pm = The Gruber 10: Apple’s Top Issues, John Gruber

On the Future of Macworld



There is quite a stir in the Mac blogosphere the last few days over the future of Macworld Conference and Expo. Some knowledgeable commentators, such as Jim Dalrymple and Steve Sande have written it is likely Macworld 2010 will be the last. I disagree. Here is why.


No Apple ≠ No Macworld

I have never spoken to a single attendee who said the highlight of their Macworld visit was the Apple booth. While it is very nice to get your hands on Apple devices on the Macworld show floor, it is hardly the draw. I will drive by three Apple stores full of shiny new macs on my way to the Airport when I go to Macworld next month.

Likewise goes for the Apple Keynote. Steve Jobs has given some truly remarkable Keynotes at Macworlds past. He is an extraordinary showman and Apple has made some fantastic products. However, a lot of times Steve did not climb on stage with much ammunition and the Keynotes were really not that interesting despite his super-human presentation skills. Think about it. How much were you “blown away” by the Apple TV refresh of 2008 or the iLife introduction in 2005? Even last year Phil Schiller had to work really hard to make more than a snoozefest. More to the point, of the thousands and thousands of people who attend Macworld, how many actually got in to see the Apple Keynote? A small percentage.

I still find Apple’s withdrawal baffling. The people who attend Macworld are the passionate bloggers, power users, and programmers that make the Mac special. They are the sharp end of the stick. While I appreciate that a business argument can be made to cut costs, Apple’s quarterly profits are measured in the billions and supporting its developers and most avid users seems a very worthwhile investment.

Regardless, Macworld can get by just fine without Apple. In lieu of a large Keynote for a select audience, IDG has put together a series of featured speakers that are all both knowledgeable and entertaining. Watching people like David Pogue, Andy Ihnatko and John Gruber will be far more entertaining and educational than hearing someone from Apple prattle on about the latest menu item in iPhoto.


IDG Is Listening

I was in attendance at the Macworld town hall meeting last year. There wasn’t a seat in the place and people were lining the walls, two or three deep in some places. Many ideas were proposed and several of them (like moving the date to February) were implemented this year. Some critics have argued IDG dropped the ball by not moving the expo to a different town. I would speculate that a place like the Moscone Center is booked years in advance and IDG already had contractual obligations for 2010. Perhaps in future years the Expo will move. Either way, I’ve had some inside exposure to the Macworld planning and can report that the people behind it are extremely passionate about making it the best show possible and are looking very closely at every suggestion, the wacky and brilliant alike.


Don’t Forget the Conference

Macworld is a lot more than a group of vendors and software developers. It also includes a world class conference where users and professionals can learn a lot about their Macs and how to use them. At the conference you can become a networking and security expert, an Applescript guru, or just maybe a more savvy Mac user. Every year, IDG assembles an all-star cast of instructors and attendees can learn a great deal on any of the conference tracks.


There is No Substitute

There is an argument that if Macworld were to disappear, there would be no real loss to the Mac community. I couldn’t disagree more. Macworld is a special place. While local user groups are nice and the internet community is a great resource, neither can hold a candle to the flesh and bones gathering of the true believers. 

Macworld is about users and everyone there is a zealot. Nowhere else in the entire world can you look at the guy in front of you in the sandwich line, ask him how to zip a file in Applescript, and receive a prompt, if not concise, answer that is spot on. The concentration of Mac geekiness in the room is palpable and, if you have experienced it, unforgettable. It is a communal experience that, if lost, will not be replaced. This point also goes toward the issue of the decline of trade shows. Macworld is more than a trade show.


 “Everything changes, nothing remains without change.”

  -The Buddha


An Opportunity Exists

Without being tied to Apple’s presence, Macworld could very likely evolve into something even more useful to Mac users, developers, and professionals. Regardless, declaring it dead a month before it even begins defies logic. There will be a different vibe at Macworld this year. As Buddha says, things change. There are a lot of very smart people working hard to make this change for the better. Who is to say they won’t succeed?

Macworld Questions


Katie and I are going to be interviewing Macworld President, Paul Kent (twitter @paulkent), in a few days for an upcoming episode of the Mac Power Users. If you have Macworld questions, comments, or suggestions, drop me a note, soon. Also, if you are planning on attending make sure to reserve Saturday, February 13 at 2:45pm on your calendar where the the Mac Power Users will record live from the show floor. Finally, if you are attending the conference, sign up for one of my sessions. I’ve been putting long hours in preparing and the sessions are looking good. You can get a 15% discount on a conference pass by using the coupon code “DSPARKS.” I’ll be posting more on Macworld as it approaches.