Three final Macworld Expo items:
BeOS On the last day of the Expo, I took some time to wander around the BeOS booths. For the first time at an Expo, there were some serious third-party applications on display - either released or about to be released - including some stunning graphics and presentation software. It makes you feel as if the BeOS may yet play a significant role in the Mac's future. On the other hand, after spending the better part of a day trying to install the preview edition of the BeOS on my Mac - without success - I can see why many think the BeOS is still not ready for prime time.
PaperPort Strobe I treated myself to a PaperPort Strobe color scanner, taking advantage of the special Expo pricing opportunities. It obviously is not the equivalent of a flatbed scanner. Among other things, you can't scan anything that cannot be fed through its feeder - which pretty much leaves out scanning pages from books (unless you photocopy them first). But it has such a small footprint and is so fast (especially in 1 bit mode) - that I can't help but like it. And the software is fantastic. Just stick a sheet in it - and you can directly send a fax, print to a printer, convert an image to text via OCR software, or set up to process a color photograph - all in whatever application you specify.
Expo paradoxes As for the Expo itself, it was something of a paradox. The crowds seemed as large as ever; the aisles at Bayside in particular were packed throughout the day. But the number of vendors exhibiting was less than ever - with several significant no-shows, such as Iomega, Macromedia and Now Software. The fact that this was the last Expo where MacUser would be present was sad - and represented one of the harsher realities of a shrinking Mac market. But the surprises in Steve Jobs keynote address - and the positive press it received - made for some real excitement - of a sort that I have not seen for the past several Expos.
On balance, I came away from the Expo more optimistic than I would have ever expected. I see the Mac poised for potential greatness. The 750 processor machines coming down the road will literally need to be tied to your desk to keep them from taking off. And some sneak peaks at Rhapsody suggest that it is everything that Apple is promising it will be. Apple is finally putting it all together and is ready to dazzle us again. And with a new energized board of directors, the personnel needed to pull it all off successfully may finally be in place.
Of course there are still some major road blocks to surmount. Who will the new CEO be? How will Apple resolve its dispute with clone makers? Will the Rhapsody schedule start to seriously slip? Will Apple's market share continue to drop no matter how spectacular its products are? There are many ways that things can still go wrong. But for the first time in a long while, it feels like there's a good chance that things may actually go right. All in all - an Expo to remember.