Lunatic's Macworld 2011 Roundup

As always, I roamed the show floor of Macworld 2011 looking for interesting products that might have gotten overlooked by the mainstream press. Usually these are from smaller companies that have booths off at the sides or back of the expo hall(s). This year there was only major company exhibiting: HP. The rest of the show floor was medium-to-small size companies, so there was plenty of opportunity to find and check out the kinds of interesting things that frequently get overshadowed by announcements from more well-known major players.

For the past couple of Macworld Expos I've been live-posting on Twitter about what I've found on the show floor. I've uploaded some photos as well in the past. It's been difficult though to get more than a few photos up during the day because of the combination of poor mobile reception in Moscone's underground halls and the overload of thousands of additional iPhone users trying to connect at the same time to AT&T's network. This wasn't such a problem this year thanks to the expo being in the aboveground Moscone West, plus AT&T's gradual capacity upgrades over the past few years. Since I managed to get a lot more photos this year, I thought I'd do a single-page roundup of all of them, plus my show floor comments. Outside of the 140-character limited medium of Twitter I'll also be able to expand on the details and more easily direct-link to the companies and products mentioned.

You can click on any of the photos below to go to the Twitpic page for it.


Kind of cool ZAGGmate iPad 1/2 shell hard case with Bluetooth keyboard at #MWSF
(available at BestBuy and Target for $99).

Minor problems are the raised lip around the keyboard, and being separate you might leave it behind more often when you want to more quickly grab your iPad and go, as opposed to a folding folio-type case with a keyboard that an iPad is slid into.

ZAGGmate won a Macworld Expo 2011 Best of Show award.

Awind MacTiVia

One of the few Mac items I saw in the first two aisles I went down, the Awind MacTiVia mirrors a Mac's display via WiFi to an HDTV. However: There's no IR remote support, so you can't control a Mac in another room running FrontRow. And: It's $199! Twice as much as an AppleTV!

The MacTiVia has a USB port on the back for you to plug in a keyboard and mouse, to control the Mac remotely. This isn't very elegant for your living room, unless you're a technophile. And if you are a technophile, you probably already have a computer that you use from your couch.

Also, Awind's MacTiVia marketing message should be something like "Mirror your Mac display to an HDTV via WiFi" or "Share your Mac display on an HDTV via WiFi" rather than "Bring EVERYTHING on your Mac to HDTV without wire." It's harder to tell what "everything" means, compared to "mirror" or "share your Mac display." Plus anyone who's likely to buy one of these will already know the common term "WiFi."

Awind MacTiVia won a Macworld Expo 2011 Best of Show award.

Interesting iFusion desk phone dock for iPhones, with wired handset. $169 MSRP.

The iFusion uses Bluetooth for connecting voice calls via your iPhone, like a Bluetooth headset. It also acts as a speakerphone and you can play music from your iPhone over the built-in speaker or through external speakers connected to an audio-out jack on the back. Its dock connector will charge the iPhone and sync it via a passthrough USB port on the back.

The 5 buttons on the iFusion are for Bluetooth pairing, microphone mute, speakerphone, and volume up/down. The buttons on the demo units were poorly labeled, though, with the speakerphone button looking more like a typical Apple volume button (see the buttons on the poster behind the demo units, above). Apparently many other attendees at the show had trouble recognizing all the button functions. I gave one of the people doing demos a sketch showing better buttons, with the volume and mute buttons having labels that match standard Apple labels, and a speaker pointing upwards for the speakerphone. Hopefully they'll be able to improve the button labels before the iFusion starts shipping in April.

As an alternative to the iFusion you could otherwise get a similar, less elegant, but much cheaper ($59.95) iPhone Desktop Handset from Hammacher Schlemmer (not at Macworld 2011):

The iPhone Desktop Handset

Thursday Night

All the good parties at Macworld 2011 were on Thursday night. Of the three that I made it to, the best was thrown by SRS Labs at the W hotel for the introduction of their iWOW 3D audio booster for iPhones, iPods, and iPads.

The SRS Labs iWOW 3D audio booster, plus their iTunes enhancement software.

The SRS Labs party had free drinks & great hors d'oeuvres, and the demo of their product was actually quite impressive. The $50 audio booster plugs into the 30-pin dock connector on an iPhone, iPod, or iPad, and then you plug your headphones or speakers into it, rather than into the audio jack on the device itself. A physical button on the iWOW can turn it on or off completely, and there's a free app you can download from the App Store that lets you adjust modes (headphones, car or external speakers) and the specific features of bass or treble enhancement and surround sound on/off. The bass and treble enhancements made a noticable difference when listening to music, and the surround sound worked well when a video was playing.


Cool iPhone 4 case that looks like an old audio cassette (Can you say "RETRO"? :)

Unfortunately it doesn't have a dock connector opening. The person who sold me one ($15) said that you can use a razor to cut a slit in the area of the dock connector. Since the case is rubber the edge wouldn't be sturdy enough if they'd cut out an opening large enough for a dock cable, but a slit will easily stretch to fit one.

Rain Design iRest iPad lap stand

My arms tire just holding up my iPhone in bed for long, so I definitely want one of these $50 lap stands for iPads.

Rain Design's iRest won a Macworld Expo 2011 Best of Show award.

TenOne Design Fling iPad thumb joysticks

$20 each, $30 for a pair ($15/$25 show special). If I played iPad arcade games, I'd get 'em.

TenOne Design's Fling won a Macworld Expo 2011 Best of Show award.

GuitarJack from Sonoma Wire Works

The best way to plug your electric guitar into an iPhone or iPad. $149.

There's a significant lack of many big booths with theatre-style seating doing software demos at this Macworld expo. Also much less product swag.

I'm still hoping to someday see a Bluetooth keyboard/iPad case including a trackpad for using the keyboard with a Mac--say as a TV media server.

An iPad smartcard reader from Feitain—Wonder if it could be used to hack Clipper cards? (Maybe if your name is "John Connor"? :)

There's dorky... and then there's a level of dorky that includes wearing an open pack on your front with an iPad in it.

Dexim Frixbee iPhone induction charging base and iPhone case

$80 with one iPhone case, extra cases for $20. The base station can charge two devices at the same time, and you can also get cases for other phones, etc.

They should try doing a case that also includes an extended battery.

FastMac's U-Socket replacement AC outlet with 2 built-in USB charging ports

Now shipping for $20 (they had a prototype on display at Macworld Expo last year).

FastMac was also showing off a new Impact Shield shock-resistant case for the iPhone 4.


iGrill Bluetooth thermometer for $100 that works with an iOS app

There was a lot of chatter about this on the Internet, so I wanted to get in a pic of it for completeness.

BulletTrain Express Keyboard Platform holds an Apple Bluetooth keyboard and Magic Trackpad

Picture of the back

The Express itself is just a metal tray that holds an Apple Bluetooth keyboard and Magic Trackpad that you supply youself. This makes going between a laptop and a desktop seamless. Great for use on the couch with a Mac mini as a media server. It comes close to the desire I stated above for a Bluetooth keyboard including a trackpad that could be integrated into an iPad case, and used with either an iPad or a Mac. This is much larger than an iPad, though—more like the size of a 15" MacBook Pro. A single case that fit both this and an iPad would be quite large.

Decide for yourself whether you think it's worth $129.

BulletTrain is another company that didn't have a booth at the expo. Instead, the two guys in the company were walking the show floor showing off their product. They wanted to get the tech press interested and have them write about it, and I imagine they were also hoping to get distributors like OWC also interested.

Interesting walk-up stand from Sprocket that turns an iPad into a kiosk

Vestax Spin USB dual turntable controllers + 2 channel mixer for Mac and iPad. Normally $280.

Topaz Labs photo tools can change 2-5 hours of Photoshop work into minutes

The demo was fantastic. Topaz ReMask alone is worth the $200 bundle or $70 individual price of admission if you're a Photoshop professional. Having been working extensively with Photoshop, lately, I know how painstaking it is to create a mask to pull a foreground object out from its background. With this tool you just draw using a wide brush around the outline of the foreground object and the mask is created automatically. Adobe should buy this company and integrate their tools directly into Photoshop.

Topaz has 30-day free demos avilable from their website.

Macworld 2012 "See you next year!" banner—optimistic? Guess they had enough registration before this year's Macworld Expo

The dates for Macworld 2012 are set for January 26-28, with an extra day for the conference on January 25th.

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Content originally created and copyright 31 Jan 2011.