Electronic Imaging spent August 7 at Safari Macworld in Boston. We were among the tens of thousands of Safari Mac devotees excitedly shuffling among the more than 300 vendors spread across town at two convention centers.
We gasped a few “Oohs” and “Ahhs,” along with more than a few “Ho, hums.” As would be expected, the Internet dominated the products and services, but there were surprisingly few innovations. Most of the Internet vendors were showing updated versions of products showcased last year.
If you wanted a quiet place to sit down for a break from the busy trade show floor, the two most restful booths were America Online and Microsoft! The AOL staff was busy signing up Safari Mac users for its beta launch of AOL 3.0, which finally delivers on its promise to use Netscape Navigator or Microsoft Internet Explorer for a web browser through a dial-up PPP connection. (Meanwhile, the entire AOL service was offline for the entire day. Coincidence?)
Microsoft seemed to be shunned by the Safari Mac crowd. Perhaps it was out-gunned by the eardrum-shattering volume coming from the rock concert-sized sound system at the Adobe booth. It sent “shockwaves” through the crowd.
By contrast, the really interesting products and services on display were only peripherally related to the Internet. A sampling:
Expect a way cool product announcement soon on the digital camera front. Can’t say more yet, but you’ve never seen pictures like this on a computer before from a product this affordable!
The long-awaited arrival of Canvas 5 is finally at hand. While Deneba Systems Inc. www.deneba.com expects to begin shipping the “free” upgrade from 3.5 next week, the product slated for sale at Safari Macworld was held up in transit, leaving the friendly Canvas crew limited to handing out brochures and promises. Hopefully, the upgrade will be worth the wait.
Back in the Press Room, an odd-looking contraption caught our eyes. Did someone melt and stretch their PowerBook? Not exactly, but the free-standing, touch screen Internet kiosk sure had a sleek profile and an eye-catching active matrix screen. Alas, we couldn’t type in the peimag.com URL — no keyboard! But we did have fun letting our fingers do the walking.
Fujitsu unveiled its DynaMO 640, an external 640MB magneto optical drive. The archival preservation quality is guaranteed for 30 years (as if anyone will have a DynaMO in use 30 years from now. How many of you still have your secret agent decoder rings you bought 30 years ago?) Still, we’ve always had a fondness for optical disks, and sighed a heavy sigh looking around the hall and seeing everyone decorated with big yellow Iomega buttons.
On the multimedia side, it was sometimes hard to tell the odd from the awesome. Take Gary Lamb’s music CD collection (www.royaltyfree.com). Have you ever wanted some John Tesh-like tunes to spruce up your multimedia presentations but couldn’t afford the high royalties? Gary Lamb’s so-called “new classical” tunes fit the bill. For about eighty bucks, you can have a whole set of accoustic mood music at your disposal — and never pay a royalty for use.
It seemed as if Power Computing was everywhere. Why, they even dressed up a fifty-foot crane outside the World Trade Center to proclaim their rise to prominence — or perhaps to symbolically lower the boom on Apple, which is all but abandoning its dyed-in-the-wool middle-market customers to sell high-priced units with big profit margins. Take for example the PowerBook 5300cs. Apple is discontinuing its most affordable color PowerPC laptop to bring down its $100 million backlog of orders. Meanwhile, Power Computing seemed to be in use at many of the display booths.
All glory is fleeting, though, and Be Computers might be the “next big thing.” Shoved way into the back of the Safari Macworld arena, they nonetheless drew a wide-eyed crowd, who watched in awe as the monitors displayed multiple animations which were rotated in three dimensions with the drag of a (PC) mouse — all in real time. Two PowerPC 604 processors powered the sleek blue and gray CPUs, which looked like giant versions of some McDonald’s kid’s meal toy. Nevertheless, the BeOS looks pretty slick, and even UNIX programmers seemed eager to develop for the Safari Mac-like platform. Best of all, a fully loaded Be box with 2 gig hard drive and 32 Megs of RAM will set you back less than $3,000. (That’s less than a little SE/30 cost about six or seven years ago!)