Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Mac That Fell To Earth

Steve Jobs should have tased her. When an enthusiastic fan who writes a sex column for a local newspaper came up to the Apple chief executive at the MacWorld Expo in San Francisco last week and asked him to take a picture with her, Jobs declined.
And that's when the bloggers attacked. Jobs was condemned throughout the blogosphere for the brushoff. If Jobs had been cool, the undercurrent suggested, he would have given the writer, Violet Blue, a big hug. And maybe a free iPod.
In Pictures: How To Add Bling And Rollers To Your Apple Gear
Message to bloggers: Get a grip. Jobs is the chief executive of a computer company. It's his job to make great gadgets for his customers and make big heaps of money for his investors. He's not an exhibit in a petting zoo. The problem is that after 2007's bravura introduction of the iPhone, there is simply no way Jobs could top last year's performance. (See "Jobs Fails To Wow At Macworld.") The drop in Apple's (nasdaq: AAPL - news - people ) shares served as a sobering note: By the end of Jan. 17, Apple shares had dropped more than 5% for the week.
While Apple didn't introduce anything revolutionary this year, some of the vendors gathered at MacWorld to sell Apple-related tchotchkes introduced some strange stuff. Take the Boom Bag. Like the iPhone, which combines a phone and a music player, the Boom Bag combines a suitcase with speakers. Boom Bags creator Mark Wright says the product is useful for people like sales reps and yoga instructors, who have to be able to give audio presentations or play music on the go. What Jobs did last year to phones, you could say Wright has done for rollable luggage.
Of course, many other products were things you've seen before, if you're an Apple fan. IPod speaker setups abounded: One of the more original was the Luna X2, a $119.95 alarm clock for sleepy-headed iPod owners. Then there were the companies selling iPod cases. There were waterproof cases and leather cases, cases for the MacBooks, and cases for the tiny, iPod shuffle. All the laptop backpack vendors gave parts of the show floor the feel of a Third World airport.
Or a cult. Occupying center state at the show was a massive black monolith emblazoned with the Apple logo. Every half-hour or so, a black-clad Apple employee would emerge from the massive, monolithic mother ship--kind of like a Steve Jobs Mini-Me--to indoctrinate a group of Apple fans on the intricacies of Apple's Time Machine backup software or other Mac marvels. Nearby showgoers stared at flat-screen televisions demonstrating the Apple TV's new capabilities. Some Apple fans even got hands-on time with the iPhone, the iPod Touch and the new MacBook Air.
And beyond that, the wilds of the vendor booths beckoned. And if you wandered far enough--through the booth hawking at least eight kinds of iPod speakers, out past the waterproof backpack vendors--you could find dissent. While Apple was hawking updates to its iPhone--which can only be had from AT&T (nyse: T - news - people )--a Verizon (nyse: VZ - news - people ) wireless rep was gamely handing out free wireless modems to any customers that cared to sign up.
Although the wonders of Apple's OS X Leopard were trumpeted throughout the heart of the show, away from Apple's booth exhibitors, including Parallels and VMWare, offered software that could help users sneak Windows onto their pristine Apple desktops.
Word gets around. Back by Apple central, one user paused while stroking one of dozens of MacBook Airs on a long table placed like an altar before the booth, and pointed out that the sleek laptop would make an awfully good Windows machine, once it was loaded with the right software. Heresy!

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