Macworld/iWorld 2013: Paul Kent of IDG on the Evolution of the Expo
December 25, 2012 by Bill Palmer
by Bill Palmer
With a history which dates back to the early days of personal computing, Macworld/iWorld is an institution. Once known as Macworld Expo before expanding to include a broader swath of the Apple universe, the event has been the public launch point for new technologies like the iPhone and Wi-Fi, and vendors offering hardware and software for Apple products often make their first splash here. But the real heart and soul of the event has long been the sense of community among the Apple users who attend, from the tech experts who work in the industry, to the artists who rely on Apple gear, to the casual users who simply want to learn more – along with, of course, the legendary parties and live music. Now with Macworld/iWorld 2013 set for the end of January in the event’s original hometown of San Francisco, Paul Kent of IDG stops by to talk about what’s on tap for next month’s event.
“There’s been this substantial shift in the Apple product marketplace where it’s mobile products,” he says of the rise of the iPad, iPhone, iPod, and App Store over the past decade. “Us adding ‘iWorld’ to the title of the event is indicative of how much we are supportive of mobile activities that are going on in the Apple community.”
That’s no more evident than in the Expo Hall, where a booth layout once dominated solely by hardware accessory makers is now highlighted by a mobile app pavilion populated by more than a hundred developers, most of them in small one-person booths. “We’ve made a concerted effort to attract those people, so we’ve built this area called Appalooza specifically for app developers, OS X and iOS developers, and the thinking there is that a lot of these app development companies are doing really interesting things. They’re small companies. They’re not trade show-going companies. And so we built this area. They purchase a prebuilt stand. They really only have to walk in with an iPad or an iPhone, one device, and it’s all built for them.”
The event has evolved over the decades. Once upon a time, the late Steve Jobs would use the keynote to launch his latest products. These days the focus is slanted to reflect a twenty-first century landscape: “You’ve walked out of an Apple Store, what now?” The ensuing user immersion at Macworld/iWorld comes in a number of forms.
“The Tech Talks, these presentations that we have, are really interesting, informative, practical, useful tips and techniques and visions and inspiration about how these products are being used,” he says of the sessions which take place across the event’s three main days. “So in our Tech Talks we have everything from well known doers, Macworld editors, editors of other notable sites, notable people from the user community, coming to talk about interesting and innovative uses that we have. Some of the lesser known features that really are quite practical and useful are brought to light, some of the more obtuse features in OS X and iOS brought to light, and then always the popular software as well.”
Film and photography have long been core tenets of the Mac platform, a trend which has evolved to include iDevices. “We have eleven of the world’s most renowned iPhone photographers getting together to do a one day special event on Wednesday, January 30th. It starts at eight in the morning and goes to nine at night, soup to nuts, everything you need to know to be a semiprofessional/professional photographer using mobile optic technology and mobile photo technology. Similarly, for videography as well, so we have people that have created works of film and video, shorts and some feature length films, all done and captured using the optics of an iPhone and iPad.”
An exhibit hall pass costs only twenty-five dollars in advance, while the full array of upper level pro sessions has a price tag in the hundreds. But for attendees who want to take in all of the mainstream educational aspects of the expo along with the exhibit hall, the $75 iFan Pass keeps the trip affordable. “We’ve gone this route of making sure that Macworld is open to all people, affordable to all who love this technology and enjoy learning more about it.”
Music is another core platform of the Apple universe, and that presents itself at Macworld/iWorld in a number of ways. One is a Battle of the Bands among musicians who use Apple technology in their performance or creation in interesting ways, a contest which is currently open to any bands who apply in advance. Another is a performance by yet another music legend at the annual Blast kickoff party. Past headliners have included Cheap Trick and Modest Mouse, and the 2013 party will feature living legends Little Feat. As it turns out, Little Feat founding member Bill Payne is an avid photographer, the kind of Apple user who might be attending even if he weren’t performing.
“The veil between the superstar and performer and the guy in the stands is a very thin veil,” Paul says of the evolution of creative technology in this century. “It’s the same tools that are available to us, and all you need is a little bit of inspiration and certainly some talent, and you could be on the other side of that stage.”
“The same stuff that you and I can buy off the shelf is being used in the most interesting and imaginative ways. For example we have people from the NASA Curiosity Team talking about Apple technology in the use of the deployment of Curiosity on Mars, which is really fun. We have the use of Apple technology in modern mobile health care. Technology is so ubiquitous and is used in such interesting ways now, and Macworld is always a place where you can come and see the state of the art.”
“If you’ve been going to Macworld for a long time, it’s always those innovative companies in the corner that were part of the folklore, the magic of what the event is,” he says of the tradition in which organizers and attendees never really know which new product is going to be the hit of the show until it happens. “That’s where the innovation is.”
Macworld/iWorld takes place January 30th through February 2nd at Moscone Center West in San Francisco. Early registration pricing runs through January 1st at macworldexpo.com.