London MacExpo 2006 report

The London show is not directly Apple sponsored, like those in Paris or San Francisco, but they do have a good record of attendance, and this year is no exception.

When I attended last year, the show was abuzz with the new iPod Nano and iPod with video, which had been launched a few weeks previously, and the then G4 Powerbooks had just received an incremental speed bump and screen update.

This year, we again have new iPod Nanos, a bumper iPod with video, and the MacBook Pro has just been revised. Does this form a trend for the future?

Initial impressions were of a marginally bigger and slightly busier show than last year on the first day, though it is impossible to be definitive until the show is complete and the actual attendance figures are in.

Apple had the largest stand, as you might expect, though the actual product count on show was down on last year in favour of a larger theatre space. The seminars themselves were in my opinion not as attractive, being fairly generic affairs (overview of iTunes 7 and iPod, anyone?). No sign of the new iPod Shuffle yet, which was disappointing – Apple staff indicated a mid-November in-store arrival date, which is a bit of a slip from the Jobsnote announcement. Branding indicating the revised MacBook Pros was not overly apparent – perhaps the revision occurred too late to get it set up for the show?

As you would expect, there was plenty of iPod accessory retailing going on. However, one frustrating aspect was that there were several accessory manufacturers with stands – Griffin, Macally, Belkin to name three – but despite them all having product on show, all buying requests were being referred to the three big reseller stands. This would be fine, except that the resellers were not stocking all of the product being shown by the manufacturers! This was just stupid – not being able to buy product on show because of some sort of manufacturer/reseller politics at a major Mac event seems counterproductive bearing in mind the retail nature of the iPod market.

It was noticeable that the resellers were carrying more Mac accessories than last year – TV tuners and audio accessories being very prevalent, as well as laptop cases. I suppose the form factor changes in the laptop line make those lucrative.

Particularly interesting stands this year were:

Google – a big stand, and through the day presentations on Google Maps, Google Earth, Sketchup and using Google services in your own web pages. Their strategy of attending computer shows and showcasing their non-search technology is gutsy…

Greenpeacewhat? They have a campaign going highlighting the chemicals in the current Mac lineup, and want Apple users to lobby the company to remove them, as they say they end up in Asian landfills or are recycled harmfully in the third world. They are claiming they are going for Apple because it is so innovative and progressive, and so is most likely to respond – but I can’t help feeling they would make more impact convincing a much larger volume manufacturer to change their practices. Of course, it is pretty easy to get Apple related press coverage in the media, particularly if it is negative…

Adobe – showing Adobe Acrobat 8, which looked very nice on the collaboration front, and the CS2 suite, which was running suspiciously fast. I couldn’t get them to tell me what their demo platform was, PowerPC or Intel…

There was the usual set of high end photo and audio attendees, including Nikon showing their latest cameras. All of the major Mac magazines were present, too (we have four general Mac magazines and several other specialist titles in the UK, which has one of the world’s largest magazine markets), and MacWorld UK were doing their best to outdo our own esteemed publisher’s 100th podcast giveaway by offering at least a grand’s worth of product every hour by random draw!

One final stand of note was a London Bus featuring Capital Radio, who were offering podcast editing demonstrations on GarageBand. However, in my view the over-focussed on the post-production effort, and I saw them switch to Pro Tools on a couple of occasions too – which in my mind flies in the face of the ‘open to anyone’ aspect of podcasting. I guess you should expect no less from commercial radio, but perhaps next year the organisers might want to get some more real world podcasters involved.

Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable event, and I was glad I made the trip. Next year’s event is already booked in the Olympia calendar – and in mine.


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