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Keeping Up Developer Relations Worldwide

by Julie Starr
09/02/2004

Not everyone can make it to WWDC in San Francisco, especially our developers in Europe. The French market has a long history with Apple, making Paris a fine host in terms of venue and attendees. In preparation for the show, it's hard to walk a block in Paris without seeing iPod posters advertising the event.

In the late 1990s the event had a bit of an identity crisis, serving much more as a bazaar for Apple vendors, and resellers than as a true vendor-sponsored trade show. The format was changed and the show scaled back in response to the floor sprawl. The expo more easily focuses on relationships, this year serving as a well-done refinement since the change in course.

Keynote

A lot of Apple vice-president Phil Schiller's keynote address is old news for WWDC attendees. (A QuickTime stream of the keynote is available in case you haven't see it yet). The Spotlight demo was more in-depth than at WWDC, looking more like a hook to get users to cough up the upgrade fee once Tiger is officially released.

The big news at the keynote was the new, highly anticipated iMac G5. After seeing the new displays in June, the iMac G5 is a logical step. Although it appears obvious, it comes from the creators of the iPod. When designers try for the most natural design, sometimes it's hard to appreciate how novel their work is.

Show Floor

The main Apple booth was huge -- a part of which can be seen in the picture.

Back on the show floor, the crowd is fairly diverse--as with any Mac event open to the public. The ability to understand French or English gets attendees through most of the exhibits. The floor was divided into three major sections: the right half of the hall for Consumers, the left front for Professionals, and the back left for Creative solutions.

Apple sponsors a few key spots in each area. A large Education Solutions booth in the Consumer section was well staffed by Apple, with rows of Macs to walk customers through different applications targeted for the education market. The main Apple booth was huge--a part of which can be seen in the picture.

It was the only place to touch and feel the new iMac. I was curious how the new iMac was cooled--there's a G5 in there, after all. After examining one, the airflow appears to flow up through the speaker grills on the underside of the display, exiting above the processor through a thin slit running horizontally on the back of the iMac (seen in the picture as a gray line above the iMac logo).


The airflow appears to flow up through the speaker grills on the underside of the display, exiting above the processor through a thin slit running horizontally on the back of the iMac.

Conspicuously absent from the marketing banners around the Apple booth are any pictures of the iMac with the ports on the back actually in use. I managed to snag one below. Too bad the Bluetooth keyboard isn't standard--that would really look chic. Apple loves their design--as they should--but I can imagine what my iMac G5 would look like on my desk. Lots of USB, FireWire, Ethernet, and speaker wires in a mess hanging off the side.

A large number of resellers and vendors also make for interesting browsing and shopping. The general public has a chance to test drive all the latest software and hardware from Apple, plus take in a wide variety of third-party software and accessories. Although Apple does not stock any products for sale during the show--just online sales--many exhibitors do. You can pick up computer books, a new laptop bag, iPod accessories, software, and lots of other goodies. As for Apple, they have special financing available to French residents, and the online Apple Store booth was quite busy every time I walked by.

After seeing the keynote address packed with people, I was sure that the Porte de Versailles housing the show floor would be far too small for the crowds, but it hasn't been too bad so far. It's hard to say if the crowds will get any better or worse before the end of the show on Saturday. I've noticed the city itself get a lot more crowded this week. The expo coincides with "Le Rentré," when the French return to school and work from their four-to-six-week long vacations.

Getting to the expo on the Metro was an adventure. Arriving to the show near 10 a.m. means a sardine experience. A vendor from XtremeMac showed me the Xtremity iPod system they were showing at the Expo. One of their reps claimed to have worn the system with a 20 gig iPod on the Metro, attached to his belt. Sure enough, a fellow passenger attempted to snatch it, but failed!

Relationships

If you're an Apple developer or a loyal customer, this is the networking event to attend in Europe. While the general public is welcome to wander the floor, there is another side to the show for those making a living with the Macintosh.

If you have a good relationship with your Apple sales representative as a customer or a vendor, you may be blessed with a VIP badge. This allows access to the keynote address and a special VIP lounge with a bar off the show floor. Plus the parties--everyone loves being in Paris and on most nights someone is throwing a party.

If you're lucky and know the right people, you may be privy to the special meeting rooms Apple provides to facilitate interaction between customers, vendors, and Apple. Since it's France, that also meant there was wine and champagne to facilitate the task. C'est la vie en France!

C'est la vie en France! Outside the hall.

Even if you don't get in on some of the inside activities, the event gives developers a chance to see their online acquaintances in person and catch lunch, dinner, or drinks. The virtual world is great at bringing the world together, but sometimes it doesn't hurt to actually see people in the flesh. I grew accustomed to greeting a few acquaintances with kisses on the cheek. You just can't do that online.

There were a number of WWDR (World Wide Developer Relations) folks from the Cupertino, California campus present. Most were very pleased to be in Paris for the show and were very friendly, even if off their time zone by nine hours. This made for excellent interaction between developers and U.S. Apple contacts.

Small software vendors such as GTMac Limited of Brighton, England and Cira of France had small demo booths in the Developer Solutions area of the show. Both had the opportunity to meet new customers and strengthen their ties with Apple. GTMac has an interesting story; they developed an add-on product to the OS X address book and were able to bring a beta version of their software to the show within six weeks, thanks to Cocoa and Xcode. Once at the show, they made contacts with several interested resellers and quite a few potential customers.

Final Thoughts

To the outside world, it looks as if the iPod is the face of Apple, as testament by the ad campaign Apple began on the streets of Paris before the show. The marketing strategy of tying the iPod and iMac together is smart--a great segue for new iPod users to join the Mac community. It remains to be seen if Apple's market share in the computer market will increase thanks to the iPod effect.

All in all the show is the place to go for European Apple users, developers, and customers. Attendees get the first look and feel opportunity at this anticipated iMac revision, and the show does the trick making sure Apple keeps its developers and customers happy in Europe.

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Julie Starr , CISSP lives in Raleigh, NC, where she is a freelance writer, computer security instructor, and sometimes a computer science PhD student.


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