So, what’s there to tell here at Macworld? Lots and not much… that is, once you get past the shock that the show is TINY this year. It’s Gary Coleman tiny… iPod tiny… respect for Bill Gates tiny. The entire floor space is maybe the size of a supermarket, and that’s with big, space-killing areas devoted to free magazines, massages and such. It’s easily less than half the size of last years event, and that wasn’t exactly a barn burner when it came to quantity of exhibitors either.
Of course, the important thing isn’t quantity… its quality. Whats good to see on the show floor? For the iPod, that means mostly a variety of skins and bags, but clearly the little MP3 player that could isn’t a big priority. If you need proof, just walk through Apple’s booth… there are no iPods on display. Shocking, but true. All emphasis is squarely placed on software packages and the new high-speed cheese grater, the PowerMac G5.
Most of the iPod items on the show floor are pretty familiar to iLoungers… I saw only a few items that I hadn’t spotted before on the Internet. Therefore, you all might know about these; they just happened to slip under my radar. The coolest is the Podio… Macally’s Retractable Earphones ($20), which is earphones with a cable that automatically winds itself up. It doesn’t have anything to cover up the earbuds themselves, but it’s pretty nice… definitely an improvement on having to untangle earbuds every time you put them on. The product literature claims they have good bass response and dynamic range… I don’t think they’ll supplant your 5.1 system (or Shure E2s), but this is one of those cases where functionality may trump audio quality.
Speck Products has their typical iPod Skins (not to be confused with iSkins, of course) and a $45 iPod belt/bag aimed at joggers called the iSport, which comes complete with a big blinking blue lightly. This way, if you’re blasting Dave Brubeck into your ears and can’t hear that oncoming SUV, the driver will be able to home in on you thanks to the little blinker, helping to ensure you get plowed down. Cool!
For the high-end audio enthusiasts, Xhifi is showing off its Xducer 2.1 loudspeaker system for the desktop, which it brags will turn your iPod into a home entertainment system. Well, it will actually act like some really nice JVC-loaded speakers and a sub for your iPod… because that’s what it is. The company is looking at convergence products though, and will be focusing on high-end sound cards and surround systems for the desktop in coming months. As for the Xducer, well, it will hook into your iPod, Mac or home stereo system, so it’s pretty flexible… a nice thing, since it runs just under $800 (did I mention its high-end?).
To the surprise of absolutely nobody, iSkins are for sale at the Think Different Store booth. The booth was surrounded by folks anxious to get their hands one, which I believe are going for the same cost as the pre-order price. All the many colors they advertised are available here, and the only reason I didn’t buy one is that I pre-ordered instead. But heck, at least I got to confirm in person that they really do look cool.
Bag and case maker, Booq was at Macworld showing off their lines of iBook bags and the new PodPaq… a nice little case which is available in nylon and trimmed in leather, and retails for $39.50. They make only cases for the latest iPods but are thinking of making ones for the older models thanks to requests at the booth (my prediction: don’t hold your breath).
Digital Lifestyle Outfitter has its Jam Jacket, PodFolio and Action Jackets here for people to get their hands on, along with their various car adaptors. Griffin has its own iPod products on hand, like the car adapters, but I didn’t spot their iFire and RadioShark stuff that were announced online. Of course, that’s pretty easy, as the booth was jammed with attendees, so seeing much of anything was next to impossible.
In the sheer novelty department, Avias Limited has the MEC Station Deluxe, a brick disguised as a 6.5 inch TFT 16×9 widescreen portable entertainment center. The unit is an iPod on steroids, with a 704×480 color screen, a choice of 20 or 40GB hard drives, and controls. It plays DVD-quality movies, supports MP3, DIVX, and about a billion different photo formats. How much does it run? I don’t know, but it can’t be cheap. People who hate the new 8-hour batteries in the new iPods should forget about this one… the battery holds about 3.5 hours.
And since everyone needs something to put on an iPod, LimeWire is here, extolling its virtues as a way to share work and files with other people… not pirated music. No, never! Plus, hey, all its users are virtuous… heck, their press kit brags that there are no known cases in which a LimeWire user has been the subject of legal action. While my legalese is only so-so, I believe that roughly translates as “Hey kids, don’t want to get busted? Come on over to our house!”
Finally, if you’re tired of your iPod and you want some other form of automatic music on demand, you could stop by Harvestworks booth and make them an offer for their Guitarbot. While Hendrix devotees have nothing to worry about, this bizzare oversized gadget created by the studio/educational company surely is fun to watch, albeit a bit bulkier than a 30GB.
So that’s the scoop, for what it is. If you live in the New York area and you want to get some good bargains and the occasional product demo, it’s a good show to visit, and is open for the next three days. Just don’t get lost on the show floor.