Jan 7, 2009 David Lang

Reminiscing About MacWorld

MacWorld Expo started yesterday, and for the first time in years I'm not there. No, I'm not complaining. My absence this year is due to the fact that my wife is about to have a baby, so I'm happy to be home right now. Still, the recent news that Apple will no longer be participating in MacWorld has made me a bit nostalgic. It would appear that last year's MacWorld Expo may have been my last MacWorld Expo.

We began exhibiting Accordance at MacWorld New York way back in the summer of 1998. I believe my first MacWorld was MacWorld San Francisco in January of 1999, when Apple announced the iMac 266 in an assortment of fruity flavors. I also attended the New York Expo in '99. After that, we began sending different teams to the summer and winter expos. I was part of the summer expo team, so I attended the New York Expo from 1999 through 2002. When IDC moved the summer Expo to Boston, Apple announced that it would no longer participate in the summer Expo, effectively killing it. After that, I began attending the January Expo again, and have been there every year since.

Every MacWorld, we would arrive a day early to set up our booth, and if we had the time and the energy, see a few sites in New York or San Francisco. The next morning we would arrive early to do some final setup, and then most of us would stroll over to the Apple booth to watch Steve Jobs' keynote. The keynote itself was held in another hall, but it would be broadcast to a huge screen in the Apple booth so that all the Apple employees manning the booth could watch it. Other exhibitors like myself would stand on the outskirts of the Apple booth to get the first glimpse of Apple's next big thing. In the early years, we didn't even have to wait for the announcement, since all the new iMacs, iBooks, Cubes, etc. were already openly displayed in the Apple booth.

Steve Jobs apparently got tired of having his keynote announcements preempted by those who had seen the new hardware in the booth, because in later years, Apple began shrouding its booth in heavy black drapes. No longer able to watch the keynote, we were reduced to eavesdropping outside the black curtains and waiting for the drapes to be taken down. Then, we'd just have a few minutes to see the new hardware before rushing back to man our own booth.

In recent years, Apple has been moving away from making big announcements at MacWorld Expo, partly to avoid people waiting to buy Mac hardware until after Jobs' keynote. While most people agree that this is a wise and long overdue move on Apple's part, it certainly has taken much of the fun out of MacWorld. Who doesn't miss the days when Jobs would end his keynote with an understated "just one more thing," and then unveil some really cool new product?

This, combined with the success of Apple's retail stores and the instant gratification of internet news sources has made attending MacWorld a much less compelling experience for most people. In recent years, I've noticed that most of the attendees seem to be from the Bay area or somewhere else on the west coast, where in years past MacWorld had a much more national and international appeal. MacWorld has also become less Mac-focused, with an ever-increasing number of iPod and iPhone accessory vendors. That's certainly not a bad thing, but it has meant that many of the attendees are not necessarily looking for Mac software.

While MacWorld has lost some of its former glory, it is still always an exciting show. Plenty of attendees stroll by and are pleasantly surprised to find a Bible software developer there. When they learn that Accordance is developed exclusively for Mac, they tend to be even more delighted.

Doing demos at MacWorld is very different from doing demos at Biblical scholars' conferences like ETS and SBL. Demos at the latter conferences are longer and more in depth, while demos at MacWorld tend to consist of a brief overview of basic searching, Key numbers, the Atlas and Timeline, etc. Occasionally at MacWorld you'll get a theological student or pastor who wants to spend some time and delve into Greek and Hebrew, but in most cases the attendees are looking for basic Bible study features.

One entertaining aspect of MacWorld is watching the reactions of those attendees who are most definitely not interested in Bible software. Some will approach the booth with enthusiasm, drawn perhaps by the maps or photographs they see displayed. Then when they notice the word "Bible" on our sign or our brochures, they'll quickly change course and try to slip away before we can speak to them. Others will stroll by, see what we have to offer, and then nudge the person next to them as if to say, "Can you believe it? Bible Software!" Then there are those who actually enter the booth: not to see a demo, but simply to engage us in some philosophical discussion about religion or make some assertion they assume will shock us.

In recent years, we've stayed in San Francisco one extra day to do a training seminar. We've done this both in San Francisco itself and across the bay in Berkeley. This year we're headed south, to Western Seminary in Los Gatos, on the outskirts of San Jose. These MacWorld seminars have been some of our best attended and most exciting. While we're always exhausted after a week at MacWorld, the enthusiasm of the seminar attendees always helps to reenergize us before the long flight home. If you're in the Bay area and you "know the way to San Jose," be sure to register now to attend the seminar.

Speaking of "knowing the way to San Jose," I'm afraid I have this irritating habit of singing songs associated with the places I visit, so in San Francisco my coworkers are always subjected to songs like, "When you go to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair," "Do you know the way to San Jose," and "Sittin' on the Dock of a Bay." It looks like they'll have to suffer through "The Sound of Silence" without me there this year. I'm sure they're broken up about it! ;-)

Well, I've reminisced about MacWorld long enough for now. In my next post, I'll list a few of my most memorable MacWorld moments, and hopefully have more to report from the folks who are actually there at the show.

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