Maggie Shiels

Cool fun Macworld with free hugs

  • Maggie Shiels
  • 7 Jan 09, 10:25 GMT

There is no doubt that Apple's last keynote at Macworld was a big let down so to get over it I decided to take a wander around the hallowed halls of the expo itself. And even there, Apple dominated the space with a massive array of demos and products.

The company's Phil Schiller had said in his keynote that he wanted to talk about the Mac and that it was appropriate given that's what the show is all about. He revealed that last year Apple sold 9.7 million Macs and that sales grew twice as fast as the rest of the industry.

MacBook ProThe one piece of hardware that he announced was the 17" MacBook Pro, which many people were expecting last year. Apple have produced a TV advert to boast about its thinness, lightness, eight hour battery and its greenness.

One Apple floorwalker, who was not allowed to tell me her name but was allowed to show me what she looked like, told me the computer was a big draw at the demo booth. And with just four of them on show, there were plenty of people crowding around to get a look at the machine that will hit stores at the end of the month for $2799 (£1930).

There was plenty around the hall to make me smile.

Candy Shell

Like a magpie I was drawn to the bright colours on display at Speck where Bill Linn was hovering around like a later day medicine man pulling out all sorts of swag from a bag laden with goodies.

He showed me a number of computer cases that you can use to cover and protect your laptop with and also a skin for your desk top in all sort of fab colours. But the company's new product was something called candy shell for the iPhone. An iPod Touch version is in the works. Bill told me the name is because "it's hard on the outside and soft on the inside and comes in four delicious colours." Just like, you guessed it, candy.

Edith YangBill's assistant Edith Yang showed off the colours which are called lemon drop liquorice, key lime jawbreaker, cranberry white truffle and watermelon gumball. Full marks for inventiveness and to hell with plain old green, yellow, red and orange.


One person clearly having too good a time doing his job was Turner Kirk, decked out in a white suit, a white hat and sunglasses.

He was demonstrating sound. Or rather a "sound" app called Ocarina that can be downloaded for the iPhone or the iPod Touch and works by blowing into the microphone, tilting the device and covering holes with your fingers to make music.

Smule co-founder Ge Wang told me they make "interactive sonic media" that centres around three key aspects.

He said: "[W]e love sound especially when combined with the iPhone. We believe people are expressive and we want to bring that out. And we have the social component where people can record and share their music and follow it on a world map."

Ocarina was the number one app for three weeks running in November and sells for 99 cents.

Ge said: "Turner embodies what we are all about. He makes music, is expressive and convivial." I want to know his secret for keeping his suit white.


HangmanForget all notions about the game you might have played as a kid, this is a simple device from a company called Neat Products that lets you listen to your music hands free but without worrying about losing it.

All you do is clip the hangman into the bottom of the iPod or iPhone where you would normally put the charger and then clip it onto your belt loop or bag or whatever and you are good to go.

Nicollette Ernst said they showed the product at Macworld last year but this year, as is the fashion, it now comes in a bunch of cool colours like pink, yellow, purple and blue.

Manga Studio

Lincy ChanLincy Chan was working her magic with a newly released product from Smith Micro called Manga Studio 4 for the Mac.

It's aimed at professional artists like her who create manga - Japanese comics - and Western style comic artists, the best known being Dave Gibbons who is an illustrator for the Watchmen.

The software lets artists produce ready-to-publish comics. But Lincy, who is the author of the Rhysmyth series of graphic novels, said it saves her a lot of time.

"It's helped me a lot because if I created my drawings in the traditional way on paper, it would take me about three days to do one page. With this software it takes one to one and a half days."

Brain Toniq

Need a pick me up? Perhaps Scott Ohlgreen can help you out. He used to be a writer and found that he was drinking way too much caffeine. He invented Brain Toniq.

"I was just looking for something that would tweak brain chemistry. Kinda act like caffeine without the caffeine. I also wanted it to be something that was natural and good for you."

Scott said he had just finalised an order for 250,000 cans for a supplier in Scotland.

Now as a Scot myself I think it might give our other national drink, Irn Bru not whisky, a run for its money. How effective a hangover cure it will be requires some committed research!

While the can says "the clean and intelligent think drink," Scott makes no claims that it will make you smarter.

Brian Sorem from Radixd did the taste test for me and declared it "refreshing, not too sweet and very natural tasting."

He also claimed he "felt a little smarter." Yeah!


I have to confess all that walking about with two bags, two laptops, recording device, and camera was really taking a toll on my back. That's when I stumbled upon nada-chair and Kreig Gaughenbaugh persuaded me give it a try.

It involves a couple of straps that loop around your knees and are connected to a back support that sits at the base of your back as you sit down. It's made of one piece of material and helps with posture and stability.

I sat with it on for about 15 minutes and while not quite ready to tackle the trapeze, I really felt it take the strain out of my lower back.

Inventor Victor Ross said he initially made it to help with sitting yoga positions but found that it works for any of the 80% of the population who suffer from some sort of back ailment.

He's been coming to Macworld for 20 years and said his biggest customer base is the computer worker tied to their desk.

"Our product might look geeky but it does the job and helps with all that back stress," said Victor.

And yes it comes in other zingy colours besides black.


Raines CohenThe great thing about Macworld is getting the chance to mingle with the community. Raines Cohen has been coming to the expo for 24 years. He is a diehard Mac man and started a Mac users group in Berkeley.

Okay so he might not sound that different from a lot of the Mac faithful, but let me ask you how many of them dress up as a pirate?

Gotcha. Well Raines' reasons are environmentally driven. He told me he noticed "with the increase in temperatures there is a decrease in the number of pirates. So if there are more pirates out there, that should reduce global warming."

He wasn't able to explain the pirate skirt as opposed to breeches.

Anyway it's proof that one should not take life too seriously at all.

Free hugs and kisses

The best booth at the whole of Macworld was that manned by three teenagers.

Kissing boothMelissa Benzo, Kate Vasconcellos and Alex Little set out on a mission to spread some sunshine and happiness to the folks of Macworld. They had obviously heard about the keynote!

Alas it seemed the Mac faithful didn't want to be cheered up because they had only raised $3 by giving out kisses and attempts to give away free hugs were not whole heartedly embraced.

"We want to brighten everyone's day," declared an exuberant Alex.

"The world is so serious. Everyone at Macworld is so serious. We just want to make people happy."

Kate and Melissa agreed and said "we are having fun and it's all about the hugs."

We don't know if Phil Schiller paid them a visit.


  • Comment number 1.

    What a bunch of weirdoes, misfits, losers and geeks! I am glad I do not have to attend such a gathering. Nuff said.

  • Comment number 2.

    As an Apple user since the Apple II days I'm sad not to have made it to a Macworld+Apple Keynote but hey, times and needs change.

    Thanks for the behind the scenes peek at some of the innovations and people who make the Apple Mac world colourful and Fun (now that's a word I've never managed to use when referencing PC technology).

  • Comment number 3.

    Ms. Shiels got a lot out of our few moments of conversation yesterday.

    She might be interested to know that the kissing/hugging booth was apparently evicted half an hour after it set up shop... something about not paying for the booth space it was occupying.

    Your readers should be aware that the correlation between decreased number of pirates and increased global temperature is not something I am making up, it is historical fact, as documented by the faith-based research labs of the Flying Spaghetti Monster adherents:

    After the show last night, you may have noticed it was cooler out already. Coincidence? I think not.

    Oh, and by the by, that's a kilt, not a skirt.

  • Comment number 4.

    Nothing to change my opinion that apple's products are merely fancy fashion accessories.

    Where is all this amazing innovation that will change our lives?

  • Comment number 5.

    Phew...for a second there I thought that Apple had lost their innovative edge in the world of technology....but then they announced that they were releasing the ipod in 4 candy colours.......worth every penny of the £699 flight.......................NOT!


  • Comment number 6.

    Crikey, so I make a VERY good living by using fashion accessories all day, and I counted myself lucky to be using the best OS on rock solid hardware already. Lucky day.
    Usual inward looking Apple bash comment from the endangered IT elite..

  • Comment number 7.


    I think you miss the point, apple claim to be revolutionary innovators in the technology field. The truth is they offer the same or lower quality hardware/software and just put them in pretty boxes with (in some peoples opinions)pretty gui's.

    And so you know, I don't hate Apple or want to bash them, in fact I would probably like to see microsoft fail more than I would like to see apple fail. But I use windows simply because it is a more versatile operating system. Hurry up linux...

    But this is the technology section of the website, not entertainment. The technology section usually shows interesting news from the world of technology or interesting innovations. Yet I see very little in the way of innovation coming from apple.

  • Comment number 8.

    To RoyBear06:

    No one HAS to go to the MacWorld Expo, we CHOOSE to go. I've been attending MWE for 12 years now and I see many weirdos (doesn't need an E, Dummy), misfits, losers and geeks and can probably be identified as one or all.

    The good thing is that I'm not a negative idiot, like RoyBear06.

    I am a smiley faced idiot!

  • Comment number 9.

    roy bear has nothing better to do than talk about NOT doing something. What a sad life.
    As for no innovation, Windows 7 is now announcing features which have been on the Mac OS for 2 years. Exposé anyone?
    Although the keynote was a little dissapointing Mac is still miles ahead compared to other OS, Any harping about it is purely jealousy spouted by bitter individuals.

  • Comment number 10.

    @gothlamy: I suppose you mean it is a better OS, apart from in:

    Applications / Games
    Hardware Support

    Yeah! A great platform. Pity few people use it, fewer people write software for it, fewer people write hardware drivers.

    Hello, I am a PC and I can interact with any piece of hardware, cost less (due to competition in the hardware market), and run any piece of software. Yes, more people write viruses for me, but then more people use me.

    I like Macs graphics, and I like the fact that they are more stable - I dislike fanboys such as yourself, who fail to see this is a year where Apple have failed to innovate and have a very small market share.

  • Comment number 11.

    I WAS a 'PC' but now I wanna get things done!

    I still have a desktop running Vista but recently bought a Aluminum Macbook as I decided that I wanted something that delivered not presented problems.

    Yes it is expensive £949 but I have never used anything that felt so finished and refined and that's just the shell.

    I'm amazed at how much better OS X is compared to Windows. Things happen the way you expect them too and don't decide to walk out on you half way through.

    One small difference I am most surprised by is application installation and un-installation. To get rid of an app drag it to the Trash and that's it, it couldn't be any simpler!

    Never been to a MacWorld Expo but from snippets I have seen and read on 2009's it seems maybe they do need some fresh blood to re-invigorate their audience.

    Coming out with big innovations every year can be difficult, when the techonology you already have is so far ahead of the game already!

    One simple but great device made me realise how much better Apple software is to Windows and that was the iPhone, it changed it all for me!


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