The cool side of Macworld Expo

Summary:There were surely losers along with the winners at last week's Macworld Expo in San Francisco, but for the moment, I just can't seem to latch onto the negativity required to spot them.The positive side of my brain is ascendant; I'm still filled with the good cheer I felt after walking the expo floor.

There were surely losers along with the winners at last week's Macworld Expo in San Francisco, but for the moment, I just can't seem to latch onto the negativity required to spot them.

The positive side of my brain is ascendant; I'm still filled with the good cheer I felt after walking the expo floor.

While I can't seem to summon the fortitude required to enumerate every cool hardware and software product introduced at the show (and there were many), I'd like to point to several technologies and companies that gained important visibility and mind share with the teeming Mac faithful.

On that score, Microsoft Corp. must be counted as the big winner. While some attendees at August's Macworld Expo in Boston took a wait-and-see attitude after Microsoft agreed to infuse cash into Apple and trade technologies with its sometime foe, Microsoft came through this time around with undeniably Mac versions of Office 98 and Internet Explorer 4.0.

Ben Waldman, general manager of Microsoft's business unit, started his company's campaign off right with an energetic presentation at the keynote address. Waldman earned enthusiastic applause as he hammered home Microsoft's message: This new round of applications were "built for the Mac from the ground up."

But the real proving ground for the rank-and-file users was on the show floor, where Microsoft worked the crowd with its software demos. I spoke with many attendees who said they had made their peace with the largest software vendor. In fact, one longtime Mac developer said he was so impressed with the forthcoming Word update that it may become his text tool of choice for programming. That's high praise indeed!

Meanwhile, show goers packed into booths hawking digital video applications. A generally graphics-savvy bunch familiar with the requirements of color print publishing, the attendees seemed eager to grasp the new opportunities and learning challenges inherent in the technologies. The crowds were thick around vendors showing new FireWire gear as well as costly professional systems.

Daniel Wright, president and CEO of Scitex Digital Video Inc. of Redwood City, Calif., said he was surprised and impressed by the level of interest in his company's demonstrations, both entry-level and top-of-the-line.

By the same token, several exhibitors said they were struck by the unprecedented number of people asking about QuickTime VR. These developers said the new level of interest may signal that users finally "get" virtual-reality technology and see everyday uses for it. During his keynote address, Steve Jobs narrated a familiar QuickTime VR tour of a CompUSA store-within-a-store, and some vendors showed QuickTime support in run-of-the-mill applications with panoramas, instead of movies.

What was the force behind this new VR craze? I think business users are finally realizing how much drama a QuickTime VR panorama can add to their presentations and discovering that VR is not out of their reach. Simulations for architecture and home improvement have used 3-D walk-throughs for years, but these worlds need to be created from scratch. The advances in QuickTime VR tools and playback as well as recent improvements in digital cameras now offer users an easier road to interactivity.

There's a bit of Talmudic wisdom that can be applied to the Macworld Expo buzz: "Only the one who eats the dish knows how it tastes." The expo provided a worthwhile opportunity for attendees to check out the progress of the platform.

Executive Editor/News David Morgenstern welcomes feedback at david_morgenstern@macweek.com.

Topics: Microsoft, Apple, Browser, Hardware, Operating Systems, Software

About

David Morgenstern has covered the Mac market and other technology segments for 20 years. In the recent past, he founded Ziff-Davis' Storage Supersite, served as news editor for Ziff Davis Internet and held several executive editorial positions at eWEEK. In the 1990s, David was editor of Ziff Davis' award-winning MacWEEK news publication a... Full Bio

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