Macworld Expo 2011 Best of All

This is a guest post written by Imei Hsu.

Having never attended Macworld Expo in San Francisco before, I really did not know what to expect. Rumor on the street said Macworld would never be the same after Apple pulled out their involvement. Past attendees said the previous expo felt like people walking around in a state of shock and loss. However, Macworld 2011 was a brand new world, with new options, a few strange offerings, and a fresh outlook of things to come. In this post (and the following two posts) I’ll share Macworld’s best, worst, and a few categories I’ve created to help you understand why Macworld Expo 2011 was the place to be.

West is Best
This year’s expo was held in the West Hall of the Moscone Center, with two floors for presentations and the exposition floor. Instead of having the expo split in two buildings as it had been in the past, having everything in one building meant that you could slip between listening to a band playing mostly Apple-centric and techy songs (one being lyrics taken from a letter complaining about a jingle written for Bing.com), pop into a workshop on how to create a song in less than sixty minutes in Garage Band in the Music Studio (sponsored by Berklee College of Music) , and catch a podcast of the Angry Mac Bastards on the Macworld Live stage without missing a single dubstep. If the expo floor needs to expand, this will no longer be possible. But for this year, the size seemed just right.

And the Winner Is

While it would’ve been easy to wait until all the Best of Show 2011 awards had been bestowed, I challenged myself to make my selections the first day, and then compare with officials selections later. Here they are.

The iPad was the clear winner, and we’re not even talking about having the iPad 2.0 on which to drool. Applications for iPad were abundant, and here’s a short list of a few of my faves:

  • 3D4Medical – I wrote about this educational app for medical clinicians, students, and people fascinated with the human body. With apps for the human heart, muscular, skeletal, and nervous systems users can flip, spin, and see cross-sections in beautiful 3-D color, we’ll no longer need laminated cards to educate patients about their bodies.
  • IK Multimedia VocaLive, iRig Mic and Amplitube 3 with iRig – While I already did a review on Amplitube and iRig with Ben Union, IK Multimedia is rolling out new apps that continue to amaze. Vocalists now have an effects processor, 4-track, and microphone made for the iPad called VocaLive. I’d post my demo here, but we’ve got a little something special planned for Lockergnome’s fans that is a real treat, so I won’t spoil the surprise. While the app is going to be available for iPhone and iPod Touch as well, I can tell you that it looks so much sweeter on the iPad, and I’m not surprised that it was the only way it was being shown on the expo floor. Editor’s note: I want!

  • SouthernStars’ SkySafari (Honorable Mention) – Southern Stars’ SkySafari app in the MacApp store gets my honorable mention because technically they are not new to the scene. They are the reinvented (and apparently, totally reprogrammed and coded) version of SkyVoyager for iPhone, which won Best of Show in Macworld Expo 2010. It puts 300,000 stars and 30,000 deep sky objects at your fingertips. They boasted being the only app that was able to clearly capture the total lunar eclipse back in December 2010. Check out the best demo of this remarkable app for astronomy lovers.

  • Music manipulation for the iPad/iPhone – When iPad DJ and entrepreneur Rana June Sobhany recounted her journey initiated with two iPads and a mixer, she mentioned that the original impetus for doing so was because she felt that a majority of exciting apps for iPad were going to be dedicated towards music creation and manipulation. She’s so dead on right about this, I’m dedicating an entire post to the options users have if they’d like to delve into a little music manipulation and DJ’ing through the expanding options and price points that are available since she burst onto the scene in April 2010.

Best Little Gadgets and Gizmos

A cursory walk around the Macworld Expo floor had me grumbling, “How many companies selling iPad sleeves with a handstrap do we need?” Honestly, there were a few too many vendors selling very creative clothing for your iDevices (or yourself!), replete with bling, original art, and clever sayings like, “iCandy” (I almost bought that one, but it was pink, which is not my favorite color, even if it does go with the slogan). If it caught my eye, it had better be worth getting. Here are my picks:

  • Glif Tripod Mount and Stand – The Glif was the cheapest and most eco-friendly solution to connect your iPhone4 to a tripod. This is what happens when two guys with no big company and no money to invest come up with a clever idea and get it in the hands of the public for a fraction of the cost of other solutions. And when it’s not on your tripod, you can flip the smaller end to grip the iPhone’s side and use it as a stand.

  • Impact Shield – Readers will laugh when they find out that Chris Pirillo was the first one to drop my iPad. Lucky for both of us, it landed on its back, and Chris has since dressed it up with a nice case from Griffin and a screen protector. But what if you’re a bit more of a klutz? You know that you can drop that little prized possession and watch the glass crack in front of your eyes. Don’t say, “Boo hoo.” Watch this little video, and see if you’d like Impact Shield’s super-protective gel wrapped around your Apple goodies:

Editor’s note: yes, that is a LEGO ring on my hand in the video. I must have been stopped over thirty times during the conference by people asking if that was a real LEGO. Yes, it is. No, I don’t have one that is upside-down to fit it. Go make your own.

  • Fling – Unless you want to go to an alternative dating site, be sure to look at tenonedesign.com and not Fling.com for the coolest game controller for your iPad. The dual controls work like a joystick, and while I’m not a gamer, these inexpensive pieces might just turn me into one. Like I mentioned above, I chose this as a best pick, and so did Macworld, bestowing a Best of Show 2011 award. Suction cups make these easy to place and remove. Now cats and old people can play games on the iPad. Who knew? While it’s so new I can’t comment on their durability, they get the thumbs up from me. Editor’s note: I want!

Overall, MacWorld Expo 2011 had far more to offer than I expected. If it had been aisle after aisle of cases and accessories, I might have yawned. But with presentations to teach you just about anything you wanted to know to enhance your user experience, and fun apps to turn yourself into a sumo wrestler or a zombie, it was a playground for Apple lovers young and old; in fact, there were quite a number of kids floating about late Friday and all day Saturday. No one hardly paid attention to the booth babes, who were strangely plentiful for the size of the conference. No matter, because we were all pressing our faces into screens and didn’t notice.

Next: Macworld Expo 2011 Worst of All (FacePalm iFails)
After: The Everyday DJ and Musician for the MacEnthusiast

B.Imei Hsu is a nurse psychotherapist, dance artist, and occasional guest blogger for Lockergnome. She also writes for Psycho Nurse on Lockergnome, and hosts her own project. Imei purchased a Macbook in 2008, and slowly became an addict. She now owns a Mac Mini, two iPads, an iPhone4, and that sturdy workhorse, the MacBook with the now famous “Snow White’s Revenge” skin. She lives with her iPad-loving cat Charles-Monet in an art loft in Seattle, WA.