[Posted Friday, July 16th]
The site of the last Boston Macworld Expo was the World Trade Center, an aging building that was ultimately too small to hold the event. To handle the overflow, Macworld Expo was also housed in a second building, Bayside Expo -- requiring the hassle of shuttle buses to go back and forth between the two venues.
For its return to Boston, Macworld Expo moved to the spanking new Boston Convention and Exhibition Center (BCEC) -- located just a few blocks from the old WTC.
No problem with size here. It looks as if the BCEC could hold the WTC and Bayside floor space and still have room left over. Of course, this year's downsized Expo did not need anywhere near this amount of space. The Expo was housed in the side and back parts of the BCEC. The most direct entrance to the Expo was from the side of the building (which is where the shuttle buses dropped you off).
If instead, you entered from the front, as I did when walking from my hotel -- you were in for a bit of a surprise. You immediately faced a huge wall of glass that overlooked an enormous -- and completely barren -- exhibit floor below. Your first thought might be that the Expo had been cancelled and they forgot to tell you. But, with a bit of perseverance, you finally notice a little sign in the corner of the lobby; it says Macworld Expo with a left arrow below it. Trekking off in the direction of the arrow, you eventually wind up in the area of the building where the buses let you off.
The conference sessions were held in a long row of rooms on the second floor, while the exhibits were in the main hall on the first floor. The facilities were superb overall. Especially welcome was the wireless Internet access available everywhere.
As expected and predicted, the show floor was a shadow of its former self. As one indicator, the program guide was reduced from its magazine-size dimensions to that of a small paperback book. Quark was the only "big" company to exhibit. The rest of the booths were a collection of mostly familiar smaller vendors (such as Belkin, Prosoft, and DriveSavers) and book publishers (such as Peachpit and O'Reilly) -- together with a smattering of companies whose products had little to directly do with the Mac (e.g., digital media players, disc duplicators, linotype libraries, and Nada-Chair). There were also a couple of intriguing newcomers (such as PhotoVu, which was showing off its 19" wall-mounted wireless digital picture frame display).
As not expected and not predicted, vendors I spoke with were pleased -- even enthusiastic -- about the Expo. They all said that traffic to their booths was much better than they had anticipated (even though traffic was down overall from previous Expos). One vendor, selling hard drives and other peripherals, told me that they came with more product than they thought they would need for the entire duration of the Expo; yet they sold out of most stuff on the first day. Conference sessions were also well attended (my own session needed an overflow room to accommodate it!).
A few vendors expressed concern that exhibits-only attendees, disappointed by the smaller size and lesser content of the exhibit floor, would be less likely to return next year. But other vendors, buoyed by their sales success, suggested that next year might be better -- even without Apple's presence.
Still, one problem with Apple not showing up is that Apple's latest hardware was M.I.A. In particular, attendees hoping to get a first glimpse of Apple's new 30" Cinema Display had their hopes dashed.
The keynote address, which featured an unscripted discussion with 4 of the original developers of the Mac, turned out to be far less interesting than it sounded on paper. There's something to be said for having people use rehearsed remarks when speaking at this type of event.
Bottom line: This year's Expo was far better than the worst predictions I had read prior to the event -- but clearly not good enough to call it an unqualified success. For me personally, I had a great time. And I know many others did as well. IDG has already posted dates for next year's Boston Macworld Expo. I hope their optimism is rewarded. I will certainly be back here next year if the Expo returns. But I won't be shocked if it does not.Resources