Macworld Boston 2004: Brains Over Beautyby Derrick Story
The good news is that Macworld Boston is now in the brand-new Boston Convention & Exhibition Center (BCEC). Unfortunately, that's the bad news too. Talk about a facility you can grow into. This place is huge.
This way to the conference. BCEC is so big it takes you a while to find the action. But once you're there... oh boy! Photos by Derrick Story.
During past conferences, this building might resonate with energy from one end of the Expo Hall to the other. But in 2004, when the East Coast version of Macworld is redefining itself in the post-Apple era, holding the conference in Boston's booming new facility seemed to be a tough sell. That is until you got here.
Reports of Macworld East's demise are somewhat premature. The Tuesday morning feature presentation was filled to capacity. David Pogue hosted a panel of original Mac engineers including Bill Atkinson, Andy Hertzfeld, Jerry Mannock, and Jef Raskin. I found Bill, Andy, and Jerry illuminating and entertaining. I thought Jef's "I really invented the Mac" speech about as compelling as Al Gore's bid for the Internet. Come to think of it, Al is easier to endure. Setting Jef's comments aside, however, the kickoff was a legitimate launch to a major conference and was well received by the audience.
Rick Smolan took the stage Wednesday morning and gave us a peek behind the scenes of his New York Times bestseller, America 24/7. Once again, the turnout was strong and the crowd enthusiastic as Rick showed us American life captured through the eyes of its citizens.
Tuesday's feature presentation with original Mac engineers included Andy Hertzfeld (left) and Jerry Mannock. (Andy is working on an upcoming book for O'Reilly titled, Revolutionaries in The Valley: Their Amazing Stories of How the Mac was Made. Due to release in late 2004.)
The Expo Floor
The expo floor is the soft spot of this event. We knew it going in, and that's the way it has panned out. I think the media is focusing on this aspect because everyone is used to bigger and better Macworld exhibitions.
At the upcoming O'Reilly Mac OS X Conference, we would be thrilled with this kind of vendor turnout. But we don't have a track record of filling up the entire Javits Conference Center or Moscone North and South tradeshow floors with exhibitors. Macworld does.
Lots of room to grow. BCEC can accommodate a much bigger expo. Apple's presence would be a nice addition.
I walked the floor here at BCEC and talked to a number of exhibitors. It took about 90 minutes. I enjoyed visiting with vendors such as Radtech, Harmon Multimedia, O'Reilly, Peachpit, Software MacKiev, Guitar Center, and Spymac. But it's not the type of floor that takes you two days to absorb. And this is where I think you have to look at things differently to appreciate this event.
The Conference Program
What I'm driving at is this: Macworld Boston 2004 might not be as beautiful as we're used to, but it's just as smart.
While I was in the Speaker Lounge, I saw David Pogue, Rick Smolan, Andy Ihnatko, Ted Landau, Adam Engst, Bob LeVitus, Christopher Breen, and a host of other top-tier Mac minds. Both the User and Pro Conference programs are excellent with a wide variety of interesting topics capable of satisfying the most demanding Mac enthusiast.
David Pogue moderated Tuesday morning's feature presentation, then led a Panther tips and tricks talk in the O'Reilly booth.
So, while the Expo floor is a letdown, the conference program is as solid as ever. Possibly better.
And I think this will be one of the traits of a post-Apple Macworld. Since you don't have the magnificent mothership on the tradeshow floor attracting minions from all over the world, you have to go with what's in your control. And that's content.
It's the classic brains over beauty scenario. O'Reilly has been at it for years. Macworld's organizer, IDG can play that game too. And in my opinion, is doing so quite well.
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