With the announcement that Macworld Expo is going on an indefinite hiatus (more on that later), I thought I’d wax a little nostalgic and take a look back at my first Macworld — “The Show” — back in 1999. Although RandomMaccess had gotten press credentials before, this was the first time the show’s location made it practical for our little publication to attend.
This piece is undated, but was first published around July 27, 1999. –Ed.
Somewhere between Faith Healing Revival and Grateful Dead Concert you get Macworld Expo NY ’99: a rollicking joyride of new product intros, gee-whiz technology demos and the legendary Jobs “Reality Distortion Field.”
by Chuck La Tournous
I’ve said it before: although I’d never been to a Macworld Expo before, I’m an old hand at conferences and exhibits at the Jacob Javits Center in New York. But the sight of would-be attendees lined up around a New York City block stopped me dead in my tracks.
Something’s wrong, was my first thought; they haven’t opened the doors yet. But closer inspection revealed that the doors were indeed opened. They were opened because that’s where the line around the block snaked its way into the center. And across the entrance hall. And through the registration queue.
I’ve seen crowded shows and long lines at Javits, but I’ve never seen anything like this. What was even stranger was the fact that no one seemed to mind standing in a line that must surely still be winding through the hall as I write this — some 10 hours later.
Thank goodness for press credentials, I think, as I pass them all and follow the signs to the Keynote speech.
The auditorium sported a large stage with a projection screen in the center, flanked by PowerBook-style white Apple logos and giant “Think Different” posters. I believe it was Jane Goodall on the left and perhaps Dr. Benjamin Spock on the right. There are few empty seats left and they go quickly. The crowd is mixed, although it has a slightly higher percentage of Hawaiian shirts than might otherwise seem normal. There are lots of Powerbooks in use here, with stories being written directly onto web pages.
On stage are four flat-panel display monitors to the right and a podium to the left. At about 9:20, the lights dim and Apple iCEO Steve Jobs is introduced and comes on to the stage. As he starts to talk about what an exciting time this is for Apple, I can’t help but reflect on what a great job Noah Wyle did in capturing Jobs’ mannerisms. A second later I realize that this is because it’s not Steve Jobs speaking, but Noah Wyle.
“Cut!” yells an off-stage voice, and the real Jobs bounds on stage, yelling in mock criticism of Wyle’s performance. “I gave up (saying) ‘insanely great’ 16 years ago,” he said, before admitting, “he’s a better me than me.”
Jobs began with a business update, most of which was already known: 3rd quarter profits of $203 million–the 7th consecutive profitable quarter. Apple holds $3 billion in cash and will buy back up to $500 million in its stock, over an unspecified period of time. The company ended the quarter with just 15 hours of inventory, handily outperforming competitors Compaq, Gateway and Dell.
Jobs reported on the popularity of QuickTime 4 and the Star Wars movie trailers, saying the high quality clip has been the most popular and that over 400 terabytes had been downloaded.
Apple introduced QuickTime TV, its content/distribution system comprising of four components that mirror their broadcast counterparts:
- The Receiver – QuickTime Player
- The Station – QuickTime Server, which will run on standard open source protocols on either Mac OS X Server or Apple’s open source Darwin streaming server
- The Network – The Internet, along with partner Akamai, whose distributed servers buffer content and serve them locally to improve transmission
- The Content – Apple’s existing content partners, like Fox, Bloomberg, HBO, National Public Radio and The Weather Channel, along with new partners Disney and Disney-owned networks ABC News and ESPN, plus VH1 and Rolling Stone
Mac OS 9
Expected to be dubbed 8.7, Jobs said the new operating system will retail for $99 and is due in October. It will tout over 50 new features, including Sherlock II with a revamped QuickTime 4 interface and search sets, which allow the user to focus searches by information, people, news, shopping and more.
Saying customers were telling them they wanted a consumer portable that was “iMac to go,” Jobs unveiled the “iBook,” filling the last slot in Apple’s four-tiered product line: the consumer portable. iBook will ship in September with:
- 300MHz G3 processor
- 32MB of RAM expandable to 128MB
- 3.2GB hard drive
- 12.1″ TFT display supporting 800×600 pixels in millions of colors
- 56K modem
- USB and 10/100 Ethernet ports
- ATI Rage Mobility video card with 4MB RAM
- Two “flavors;” Blueberry and Tangerine
- A foldout carrying handle
- Full-sized keyboard
- 6 hours of battery life
Jobs noted that the iBook is faster than any Wintel-based notebook computer at any price. The company is taking orders now at a price of $1,599.
Jobs also demonstrated a companion to the iBook, the AirPort. Essentially, it’s wireless hub that lets up to 10 iBooks connect to a LAN or the Internet from a distance of up to 150 feet. Apple Marketing VP Phil Schiller proved that his iBook was actually connected to Jobs’ via the AirPort, by diving off a catwalk high above the stage, while an accelerometer measured its movements in real time.
After unveiling new iBook TV spots and taking an impromptu “Applause Meter” ranking, Jobs pointed out 100 Apple employees scattered throughout the audience, all carrying working iBooks, connected to the Itnernet via the AirDock. We were lucky enough to be seated directly next to one of them, and so, we were literally among the first in the general public to get a hands-on look at the iBook. The first site we pulled up? Why www.njmug.org, of course.
On the convention floor, it was a hustling, bustling, enthusiastic gathering of the Mac faithful and the equally enthusiastic vendors who can now see real profit in catering to the Mac crowd. Although nowhere near the size of either Internet World or PC Expo, what the crowd lacked in numbers it made up for in sheer energy. Among my favorite sightings: a guy with a Firewire logo tattooed on the back of his neck. Other sightings included most of the Mac journalism crowd: Jason O’ Grady, Bob LeVitus, Deb Shadovich, Dennis Sellers, Andy Ihnatko, David Pogue, Maria Langer, and of course, our own Mayer Fistal and Scott Alenick.
We left the Expo after two days and two canvas bags full of press releases, product literature and other miscellaneous propaganda.
We’re still disseminating it all–and trying to figure out how to swing an iMac on a User Group webmaster’s budget.
All in all, it was a great Expo–and a great time to be a Mac user.