Best of Shows

Two trade shows in three days. Wow. It started Wednesday with MacWorld Expo. As mentioned here in an earlier post, I led a panel with Apple's Ken Bereskin on Mac OS X Secrets. The panel went very well with a full house of about 200 people. We got to about half our tips in 90 minutes. Since we didn't have a handout of all the tips, I made the mistake of promising that I would put them up on the web. So I'll be spending some time doing that this weekend. And you'll probably be seeing many of the tips on The Screen Savers eventually. There were some really cool ones.

We also covered a few key applications we really liked. Ken introduced me to a little utility for OS X (originally written for NextStep, OS X's grandpappy) called LaunchBar. LaunchBar gives you access to any program, file, URL, or e-mail address on your computer in just a couple of keystrokes. Your hands never leave the keyboard. Command-Space starts the program then you enter the first few letters of the name of the item you want to open. LaunchBar narrows the options down as you type. It's the most efficient way of working with a computer I've ever seen. I wish there were a version for Windows. Wouldn't be too hard to write. Hint, hint.

I didn't get much time at MacWorld Expo, but it was obvious that the new Macs, a revitalized Apple, and OS X have really awakened the Mac world. This show was noticeably more exciting than any in the past five years. More importantly for the company, Apple is winning converts for the first time in a long time with slick looking products like the new iMac, leading edge technology like the DVD-RW Superdrive, and, finally, competitive prices. OS X is UNIX with a pretty face ' and power users love it.

On Thursday I flew to Las Vegas to catch the last two days of the Consumer Electronics Show, CES. CES is starting to eclipse Comdex as the most important technology show of the year. It was huge this year, filling the one million square foot Las Vegas Convention center with 15,000 new products. I was struck this year by how digital tech is changing consumer electronics.

This year, as last, TechTV sponsored the Best of CES awards. There was quite a battle over the Best of Show award with the judges evenly split over the HipTop cell phone/PDA from Danger and the Moxi Media Center.

The HipTop is the size of a deck of playing cards and combines a GSM cell phone, GPRS data for web surfing and e-mail and a full elegant PDA with a keyboard and flip up screen. You can synch the PDA with the web over the GRPS link. It even comes with a tiny camera for sending still pictures over the network. One of the big cell phone providers will offer the HipTop this Spring for around $200. Only AT&T, Cingular, and Voicestream offer GSM in the US, and only AT&T offers both GSM and GPRS so my guess is that their deal is with AT&T Wireless, but Danger's not saying. The judges awarded the runner-up prize to Danger, but it was a tough call.

The Best of CES winner was the Moxi Media Center. And rightly so. It combines all the functionality of a Tivo with a DVD player and CD ripper. You can store a ton of TV and music on the 80 GB hard drive, and best of all, with the little wireless remote units you can watch video or listen to your MP3s anywhere in the house. Moxi uses the new 802.11a wireless networking that can do 20-30 mbits per second. Echostar will offer Moxis for the DISH network (and presumably DirecTV if the sale goes through) by the end of the year.

All I can say is that I plan to buy both the HipTop and Moxi when they're available later this year. Very cool.