Here's something blasphemous: My favorite booth at Macworld was not Apple's, but Belkin's. It knocked my socks off.
Think back a few years: Belkin was a ho-hum manufacturer of unsexy cables and nondescript PC accessories. Then came the iPod, and the company recognized a good thing when it saw one. Belkin jumped on the iPod shooting star and produced a nice line of interesting, well-conceived accessories. But essentially, the company outsourced its aesthetic to the iPod, piggybacking visually as well as functionally on that core device.
Now, Belkin is turning into a design and innovation powerhouse in its own right.
At its attractive booth, the company was showing an amazingly wide array of products, including a hip messenger bag, an HD TV "beamer", a Skype phone, and Podcast Studio. All were interesting, stylish, and well-made. The company has an emerging aesthetic that, while not totally unique, is starting to create a strong Belkin personality.
One item that caught my eye because of its genuine innovation in a totally boring product was its Conserve Surge Protector. It is a thin eight-outlet surge protector (stifled yawn)...with a remote control. Huh?
Actually it's brilliant: You use the remote to turn off the powerstrip when you don't want it sucking. The remote can be used to control one or multiple strips (they have selectable RF channels), so conceivably you could turn off a whole bunch of them in one go in an office or house.
There are two nonswitched outlets so you can turn off your energy-sucking plasma and leave your TV on to record The Colbert Report. Ironically, the power strip itself becomes a source of vampire energy, but it is far less than what is connected to it.
Lastly, the remote looks like a giant on-off switch, about the size of a playing card. It can be attached to a wall-mount, so you don't have to worry about losing it:
Let's hope Belkin can keep up this pace. My hat is off to the company.