#Macworld Rocks On Without Apple/Thanks @Pogue @LeVarBurton @AutotuneTheNews

11Feb10

Tucked into tiny North Hall, Macworld rocks on without Apple.  Half the floor space, schwagless vendors (no USB powered lava lamps, no bunny ears, no tee shirts) and a nearly invisible press – these could seem like dark times.  But the mood is surprisingly light as smiling crowds pulse through the narrow aisles of the market mecca, bubbling over a cornucopia of innovative products.  People are happily spending.  And then there are those moments of onstage hilarity and party afterlife that are making this mellow Macworld very special.

Last night, 4sq had its thumb on EFF’s 20th Birthday Party as Mythbusters’ Adam Savage, Lotus founder Mitch Kapor, John Perry Barlow and others reenacted the past two decades of EFF defending the right to remix, mashup and self-express.

Then bright and early this morning, David Pogue burst on stage bouncing and screaming like Steve Ballmer getting us laughing about a new era without Steve Jobs.   He screamed out  – we can say anything we want because Apple is not here – iPhone’s going to fail because it doesn’t have flash – then the lights went out.  He broke out into song, told us about his latest book The World According to Twitter, showed off some crazy apps like Dragon Mind Dictation, and then introduced the packed house to Brooklyn’s Gregory Brothers who blew everyone away with their AutoTune The News. Check out this video (waking up is a strange reason to die) and this video (Republican Health Plan: Don’t Get Sick) and you just know that they’ll soon be showing up on Saturday Night Live.  Pogue then had them perform his must-see spoken word production of It’s a Wonderful Mac with LeVar Burton as Steve Jobs. Hopefully someone will post the video to the entire skit soon – it was brilliant.  Pogue and Burton, new BFFs from CES, then sat down to chat. Burton talked about not needing an iPad, how he hated the visor on Star Trek, and how he’s looking for VC $$ to back his new web/tv production company, Burton/Wolfe Entertainment.  Watch for Reading Rainbow online 3Q10.

Next up was DEMO Best of Show with Matt Marshall of VentureBeat who introduced several unbelievably cool products:
Carina’s Sky Voyager app that turns iPhone into a telescopic controller and allows users to search celestial bodies (Booth 1586)
Canson’s PaperShow, $199 recyclable interactive paper and camera pen that replaces flipcharts and emails annotations (Booth 746)
Ten One Design‘s $25 Inklet with a $15 Pogo Sketch Pen turns Macbook trackpad into a drawing tablet for CS4 (Booth 960)
Showwx Laser Pico Projector, super tiny plug and play projects iPhone movies onto theatre-size walls, available for sale 4Q for $500 (Booth 1146)
Yapper which turns RSS feeds into iPhone and Android apps for a Macworld special of $99 set up
-QuickOffice, which allows you to work on spreadsheets, Google Docs etc on your iPhone.

As soon as the doors opened at 12 we all ran to the show floor.  I didn’t find the iPhone printer I was looking for but I did find Joby Gorilla tripods (Booth 1600), the Richard Solo batteries (Booth 1583) and the ArmPocket nano cases (Booth 1566) – booths which were bustling with traffic.  I was thrilled to run into the Founder of Sharper Image – Richard Thalheimer – who gave me a press discount of $10 to try his newest battery, the RS1800, as my iPhone ran out of juice (and later sent a complimentary RS001 and RS case so I’d never be without).  I have to say I love the longer grip with secure lock and the fact that it still has a flashlight.  But most of all I love that I don’t have to remove my case to use it.   It also comes with a handy charge right out of the box.  The price bump to $30 from $20 seems justified with the added battery life, laser pointer and secure grip, and yet it is still one of the lowest priced iPhone batteries around.  I also had a chance to try ArmPocket as I was given one to demo.  The memory foam is very comfortable, the pocket has room for everything, phone, wallet etc., and its so stylish that within minutes of walking around with it I was asked where I got it.

Elsewhere on the floor, I ran into friendly Canadians at SelfServeApps (Booth 1667) who for $99 + $29 monthly fee create iPhone apps for small businesses from URLs and RSS feeds.  Nearby at Booth 1478, Gamesalad, another app development service starting at $99 is focused on non-coders creating and selling iPhone games.  MacSpeech had a big presence in the center (Booth 972) and my once client Telltale Games (Booth 786) were at the other end showing off Tales of Monkey Island on the Mac. The most fun on the floor had to be dancing with Microsoft icon mascots who were giving away Mac Office Loves You mints.  As for schwag, there was a bubble gum bar at IBM, peppermint patties from AMEX, and iJustine got a mug.  Nothing like last year when Macworld won for being the schwaggiest of them all.

Of course, schwag is not everything.  The content has to be stellar too and it was. Around 2pm, the sessions picked up again – there was Steve Garfield of Rocketboom at Wiley and Andy Ihnatko of the Chicago Sun Times on the Main Stage.  And back in Room 134, uber-crass Kevin Smith, filmmaker, Clerks, Chasing Amy, Jersey GirlCop Out, popped in for a fun audience Q&A.  He gave out hugs, photos, autographs, auditions, dates – really anything the audience asked for.  He told stories of how he’s grown to fear and admire Bruce Willis, and lovingly refers to him as Boss.  He said Warner Brothers has been great to work with, and that he was sad that his former home, Miramax was being shuttered, for just a mere $700mm.  He told the indie producers that life is all about levels, and what you’re willing to accept.  And he said as he turns 40 he’s looking forward to becoming a more serious filmmaker, he’s not writing anymore comic scripts, and he’s enjoying all the free films he gets as an Academy member.

The evening wrapped with Clixster at Harlot, Cirque Du Mac over in North Beach, and a non-Macworld party at Twitter HQ.

Still ahead:  Guy Kawasaki, Scott Kurtz, Leo Laporte, Roger McGuinn of The Byrds, Warp 11, the Sci-Fi Band, A Comedic Journey Through Apple’s History, The Gruber 10, TweetUp at the Marriott Marquis, Macworld Blast, BT, a special iPad event and more.  So swing on by Moscone if you’re in town and follow along at #Macworld and #mw2010.

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