Macworld's future uncertain, say local iPhone devs

Macworld's future uncertain, say local iPhone devs

Macworld seemed to be slower this year than last, but there was still a lot of interest in the iPhone, says Polar Bear Farm’s Layton Duncan, who exhibited at the conference.

Duncan and another local iPhone application developer, David “Majic Dave” Frampton, talked to Computerworld from San Francisco, where they attended a “dying” Macworld. Apple’s decision to pull out of the show could mean this was the last one, they say.

The atmosphere was a bit on the doom and gloom side.

“People I talked to generally felt that Macworld is dying, or at the very least in for a big change,” says Frampton. “Steve not doing the keynote didn’t really matter, but Apple not being there next year is a huge loss to the event. Many developers I spoke to seem to be on the fence about going back next year, so it’s going to be interesting to see what happens.”

Duncan, who was lucky enough to receive a VIP invite to the keynote, thought Jobs’ stand-in Phil Schiller did a great job. Schiller is Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide product marketing.

The talk amongst exhibitors with the news that Apple is pulling out from next year’s show went along the lines of “I’ll show up if you show up, and if Apple shows up we’ll definitely show up”, says Duncan.

“Every year, IDG gets exhibitors to re-book their booth for next year’s show…the re-booking office was empty this year, no one I talked to was willing to commit to coming back at this point,” says Duncan.

There is a desire amongst exhibitors and attendees to see the show continue, but the knowledge that it will be a different show without Apple, and the expensive pricetag for exhibiting, make people uncertain, he says.

Whatever happens, Macworld is in for a big change.

“This show is going to evolve and you need to know that we are embracing this evolution,” Paul Kent, vice president and general manager of Macworld Conference & Expo, told Macworld magazine earlier this month.

Kent said he envisioned future Expos as embracing film festivals, music festivals, and digital photography as a way to engage the attendees.

Sixty companies, including HP, Microsoft, and Other World Computing, have already signed up for the 2010 Macworld Expo, said Kent.

For Frampton, the highlights of Macworld were shaking high-profile blogger John Gruber’s hand and meeting other people he admires. “I actually found the expo itself quite underwhelming, but I really liked walking through the developer booths and chatting with other developers,” he says.

Duncan says he was pleased to see where Apple is heading with iLife. “Some of the smart features they are adding to automate things and simplify organisation are interesting.”

On the downside, the exhibition did not offer much software. Most of the floor space seemed to be taken up with iPhone and laptop cases and skins, earplugs and stands – “accessories that didn’t interest me,” says Frampton.

But Christchurch-based Polar Bear Farm, exhibiting at Macworld for the second time, was among the few to exhibit applications.

Last year, Polar Bear Farm was said to be the only company to exhibit iPhone-related software at the conference.

Voice-recording application Record is the company’s gold app at the moment. It has reached the top-10 paid applications on the iTunes store in 26 different countries, says Duncan.

Former landscape painter Frampton released the hugely successful iPhone and iPod Touch game Chopper last year, getting 20,000 downloads in the first month, at US$7.99 each. It then settled at around 500 downloads per day.

Chopper recently had a surprise comeback after Frampton put it on sale at 99 cents late last year. It peaked at #2 in the US, and was #3 on Christmas Day, he says.

Going to Macworld was a last minute decision, half-way through the show, for Frampton. “I was seeing Tweets from attendees and mostly wanted to join in on all the evening parties! I figured it would be a good chance to meet other developers and the press, and it really was.”

He felt it would be a great learning experience to go and he also wanted to see what Macworld was like, before deciding whether to exhibit there next year. “[But] I don’t think I will be,” he says.

Less crowded CES still useful for Phitek

Auckland-based Phitek, developer of noise-cancellation technology, was the only New Zealand company to exhibit at the massive Consumer Electronics Show (CES), held in Las Vegas in the beginning of January.

This was the fourth year Phitek attended CES, says the company’s chief executive and founder, Mark Donaldson.

While not struggling as much as Macworld, it was clear that CES 2009 was attended by fewer companies and visitors compared to previous years, says Donaldson.

“Certainly the impact of the recession was clearly visible, as it proved far easier to find a cab and book restaurants,” he says.

But the show still provided a useful forum for Phitek to present its new Active Noise Rejection solution, for improving the intelligibility of received voice in mono-aural Bluetooth headphones, he says.

According to Donaldson, this is the world’s first solution for reducing noise on the receiver end of the transmission path.

“We generally find the event useful in presenting new concepts to prospective customers, as well as supporting current customers [to] market their products incorporating our technology,” he says. “Overall the event was successful for [us].

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