Truly, the Macworld that we know from the past is long gone. What is left, by the looks of what’s in the Moscone Center West this weekend, is the remnants of a once-unique empire of desktop computing software.
I’m not even bemoaning the loss of Apple, long-departed even before Steve Jobs died. What is striking is how much mobile dominates the booths on the expo floor, as well as the talks offered upstairs. The largest, liveliest section of this year’s show is Appalooza, where three out of every four kiosks — you can’t call ‘em big enough to be booths — hawk and explain iOS apps. I’d like to be able to say that iOS is a unique enough environment to justify a user conference full of its technology. But many of the vendors here also sell Android versions of their apps.
This was not the case in the olden days when Apple wasn’t a mobile computing company with a desktop legacy. A Mac application was built sleek and easy and beloved by a wee minority of the computing world. Now an “app” is available to more than a third of the world, and more than half of the planet’s tablet users.
For quite a few years the expo floor has been crowded with companies that want to sell a wrapper for your mobile Apple device. They have now been joined by a device insurance company, a booth where you can sample non-dairy cheese product (tasty!) and a glut of accessories to push power into your mobile devices in a dizzy array of designs. One company was selling a $229 device which, with the help of $4 disposable pucks, takes water and turns it into enough power to charge an iPhone about one and a half times.
Yes, there are still companies selling things like a replacement for the ill-conceive iWeb, or the impressive array of microphones for any Apple device from Blue, or a weather program which has both desktop and iPad releases, each distinct.
But to spend to Macworld without a dedicated interest in an iPhone or an iPad would be like attending the Super Bowl to see the halftime show. At least this year’s event dropped the booth girls (svelte models) that stirred up sentiments at the 2012 conference.