Dr. Mac Looks Back on 16 Years Covering Macworld/iWorld

I just saw the official statement from IDG World Expo regarding Macworld Expo 2015 and I’m overwhelmed with sadness.  

I’ve looked forward to attending Macworld Expo every year for more than 25 years and it’s not just because Dave and Bryan and the rest of the Macworld All Star Band allow me the privilege of playing in their rockin’ band.

I’ll miss the band and Cirque Du Mac almost as much as I’ll miss the expo itself.

Macworld parties were always the best, and Cirque Du Mac was always the best of the best…

I’ll miss the goofy fun we used to have at Macworld Expo…

I’ve written about Macworld Expo often over the years and it’s been part of my life for as long as I’ve been a geek. I’ll miss attending more than I can put into words. Rather than try, let’s take a stroll down memory lane and relive some of the words I’ve written about Macworld Expo over the years.

Next: Steve Jobs Comes to Macworld

Page 2 - Steve Jobs Comes to Macworld


One of the best parts of the earlier Macworld Expos was face time with Apple execs and schmooze time with the Apple PR team. Here’s some of what I said about Macworld Expo San Francisco 1998:

Jobs’s talk at Expo lacked sweetest fruit from Apple

The festivities began with a Steve Jobs keynote. This time around he introduced add-ons for their hot G3 computers, which, he was happy to say, are selling much better than projected. He then showed off some Mac-first and Mac-only software from Microsoft (Office 98), Macromedia ( DreamWeaver), Cyan (Riven on DVD), and some Oracle business applications that look promising for enterprise Mac users. He then announced Mac OS 8.1 — a free upgrade available next month — and demonstrated an impressive new version of QuickTime, imaginatively dubbed QuickTime 3.0. Finally, he added -- as if it were an afterthought -- that Apple would announce a small $45 million profit.

While many -- myself included -- had wished for more at the keynote, I had breakfast with Phil Schiller, Apple vice president of product marketing, the following day, and he promised this was merely the first in a series of exciting announcements Apple will be making this year. He says the “new” Apple just isn’t going to talk about new products and strategies until the time is right. The days of Apple preannouncing and roadmapping projects to death before they even ship are over.

Do I buy it? I guess so. I’d be a lot happier if I knew what the company’s strategy was all about, what the future of Mac OS on PowerPC is going to be, and what products to expect and not expect from Apple in coming months. Still, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt for now.

  — Dr. Mac column January 17, 1998 (Houston Chronicle)

Seems kind of quaint and retro now, doesn’t it? But I remember those days fondly. Two years later I wrote this:

Jobs Does It Again In Macworld Expo Keynote

I was fortunate enough to attend yet another keynote speech at Macworld Expo in San Francisco a couple of weeks ago where I saw the master — Steve Jobs — work his magic yet again. And I saw the future, I believe, of the Macintosh. They’re called “iTools” and they’re some of the coolest things Apple has done in years. But first, here’s some of the other important stuff Steve announced:

After referring to himself as “Interim CEO” since his return to Apple more than two years ago, Steve Jobs has apparently decided to keep the job. He started the show by announcing he would remove the word “Interim” from his title and become just a plain old “CEO.”

Apple will make a strategic investment in ISP EarthLink, and EarthLink will become the exclusive ISP in Apple’s Internet Setup software. Apple also gets a seat on EarthLink’s board.

AppleWorks will receive an overhaul when AppleWorks 6 hits the street next month sporting a slick new user interface, new presentation capabilities, and built-in Internet capabilities that allow users to access more than 25,000 high-quality clip art images.

Mac OS X (pronounced “ten”) will ship this summer and will fully replace current generation OSes (i.e. Mac OS 9 and below) within 12 months. By 01/01/2001, all Macs will ship with this new operating system.

Mac OS X will sport a new user interface dubbed “Aqua.” Jobs demoed it at the keynote, quipping that the design goal was to create a user interface so gorgeous that you’d want to lick. And you will -- Aqua is one of the coolest things I’ve seen running on a personal computer in years.

  — Dr. Mac column January 21, 2000 (Houston Chronicle)

Back in the day we had Macworld Expo not once but twice every year. In 2001 the show moved to New York City from Boston and users grumbled. Here’s part of my column about that show:

Reflections on Macworld Expo NY 2001

Everywhere I look I see the same three complaints about last month’s Macworld Expo in New York:

1. The show sucked because Apple didn’t announce a __________. (Fill in the blank with your favorite rumor: Flat-screen iMac, hand-held PDA device, quad-processor G4 running at 1 gigahertz, etc.)

2. The show sucked because there was nothing interesting, exciting, or new.

3. The show sucked because the keynote was long and boring, and Steve wasn’t at his best.

I was there. I didn’t think it sucked at all.

  — Dr. Mac column August 3, 2001 (Houston Chronicle)

And I remember the keynote in January 2003 as better than usual, saying it had a great beat and you could dance to it:

Macworld Expo Starts 2003 Right

I’m back from Macworld Expo San Francisco and I have to tell you folks, it was a good one this time. I give this keynote a 93—it had a great beat and you could dance to it. Apple CEO Steve Jobs kicked things off by telling us he had enough new products to fill two keynotes. And he did. Bigger PowerBooks, smaller PowerBooks, better wireless reception, faster wireless protocols (much faster), faster FireWire connections, a faster Web browser and a powerful presentation graphics program (think PowerPoint, but easy to use and pretty), chapters in the DVDs you burn (YEA!), an inexpensive version of Final Cut Pro (no, it’s not called “Final Cut Semi Pro”), and X11 for OS X. Oh, there was one other thing… the world’s first and only wearable electronic jacket with integrated iPod controls, created by Apple and Burton Snowboards.

  — Dr. Mac column January 17, 2003 (Houston Chronicle)

Then there was the show where I made temporary tattoos to promote my latest book, and promised a free copy of it (Dr. Mac: The OS X Files) to anyone I spotted on the show floor wearing the tattoo on their forehead, like this:

I’m sure going to miss guerilla marketing opportunities like this

Next - The iPhone Debuts

Page 3 - The iPhone Debuts


Fast-forward to 2007, when I covered the show in more detail for The Mac Observer:

Reporter’s Notebook: Part III

When last we spoke the keynote was about to begin. I’ve been to a lot of Steve Jobs keynotes over the years and while I was a little taken aback by no mention of Leopard, iLife, or iWork, it was still one of the best I’ve ever seen. The singleness of purpose and dedication of three quarters of the keynote to iPhone served to make this a very special keynote indeed.

Since you’ve no doubt heard all about the keynote by now, and if you haven’t, you can download the video at the iTunes Store for free, I’ll cut right to the chase…

As I left the great hall after John Mayer finished playing I overheard many discussions and opinions, and almost everyone was saying the same thing: iPhone looks awesome and I can’t wait to get my hands on one.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait very long. While the two iPhones in Apple’s booth were encased in glass and untouchable, like artifacts from King Tut’s tomb, I was among the chosen and got a hands-on product briefing early Wednesday morning.

Ladies and Gentlemen…introducing the iPhone GUI (Photo courtesy of Apple, Inc.)

And bright and early the next morning I walked into Apple’s private press suite and met with Greg Joswiak, Apple’s Vice President of Worldwide iPod Product Marketing, and David Moody, Vice President of Worldwide Mac Product Marketing.

Now you have to understand that I didn’t expect to see a working iPhone in this meeting, much less get to touch one, but that’s just what happened. I walked in the room and after a couple of minutes of schmoozing, they handed me a working prototype iPhone and told me to go to town.

So I tried it all—typing text messages, dialing, browsing, zooming, and more. And as much as I was sold on the iPhone when I walked out of the keynote, I was sold on it even more after using it for just 10 minutes. In a word, it rocks. It’s light years ahead of any existing smartphone and the only one I’ve ever even considered buying.

You know me. You know I am rarely tongue-tied over anything. But I could barely form coherent sentences during my briefing. In fact, I had to explain to Joz and Moody that while I knew it was completely unprofessional for a journalist to gush during a briefing, I just couldn’t help myself.

After a few minutes I managed to get my tongue working properly and began asking questions from the list I had prepared after the keynote. My first question was, “can you have additional rechargeable batteries or is it a sealed system like an iPod.” I was pretty sure I knew what the answer was going to be and it was—the iPhone is sealed just like an iPod so users can’t easily swap batteries. Bummer.

My next question was, “can iPhone be used as a cellular modem for a MacBook or MacBook Pro?” This time the answer surprised me—no, it can’t. While it’s possible a future iPhone model will be capable of this functionality, the first iteration will not.

I was also curious whether iPhone had its own GPS capabilities. In other words, does iPhone know where in the world it is located? The answer is no… while you can access Google Maps (or Yahoo Maps or MapQuest maps), the phone cannot determine your current location all by itself. Again, a future model could add this capacity but the iPhones scheduled to ship this summer won’t have it.

Another question I had was which Windows software iPhone would sync with. I mean, for Mac users it’s a no-brainer—iCal, Address Book, iPhoto, and iTunes. Since only iTunes runs under Windows, which programs would Windows users use to synchronize their appointments, contacts, and photos? The answer was vague—the Apple guys told me it would support “several popular Windows programs” which they were unwilling to name at this time.

Finally, I asked about the dispute with Cisco over the iPhone trademark and was told that Apple didn’t believe it was going to be a problem. For reasons that should be obvious they were reluctant to tell me much more. I hope they’re right. We’ll see.

Bottom line: The iPhone is, hands down, the coolest product I’ve seen from Apple since… well, since the Mac itself. I would be happier if it didn’t cost quite so much, but I realize that like all technology, it will only get better and cheaper over time. In any event I plan to be one of the first on my block to own one.

  — Dr. Mac’s Reporter’s Notebook January 11, 12, and 18, 2007 (The Mac Observer)

Next: Sessions and Saying Goodbye

Page 4 - Sessions and Saying Goodbye


Another thing I’ll miss are my conference sessions. Over the years I participated in hundreds of them in at least half a dozen cities. And I'm really going to miss strapping on my guitar and banging out power chords in my “So You Want To Be A Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” session, where I demonstrate how to record, mix,and master a rock 'n' roll tune in 50 minutes or less with GarageBand.

I’ll miss cranking out power chords on the show floor and demonstrating that you’re never too old to rock.

Looking back, I think by 2012 I could see the writing on the wall, but I was in denial and defended the show vigorously…

Macworld Expo: The Little Engine That Could

I just got home from the recently renamed Macworld | iWorld Expo, held in San Francisco last week, and (with apologies to Mark Twain), I’m happy to say that reports of its death have been greatly exaggerated. The Macworld | iWorld Expo I saw in San Francisco last week may have had fewer exhibitors and attendees than in years past, but what it lacked in size it more than made up for with enthusiasm and passion.

  — Dr. Mac column January 31, 2012 (Houston Chronicle)

And I defended it again the following year:

Macworld | iWorld Expo: Still Great After All These Years

I’ve been attending Macworld Expo in San Francisco since the late ‘80s and, of course, much has changed over the years including the show’s name and focus. Today, Macworld | iWorld Expo offers Mac products and sessions, as well as products and sessions about other Apple products.

When Apple pulled out of the show in 2009, other big exhibitors took their mammoth and generally insipid booths and pulled out as well. Many thought the show would die without Apple and the big booth exhibitors but that didn’t happen. Rather, the show has morphed into something that offers expanded coverage of more things that interest me, while also becoming a smaller but more intimate and ultimately more satisfying experience.

I go to Macworld to talk to developers, engineers, product managers, and other knowledgeable folks while avoiding soulless robots with scripted pitches. These days it’s much easier to grab some face time with the right people, and there are far fewer robots to avoid.

  — Dr. Mac column Feb 5, 2013 (Houston Chronicle)

And in what may be the last column I ever write about Macworld Expo (other than this one, of course), last April I wrote this love letter:

I Love Macworld | iWorld!

I have never thought of going to Macworld Expo (now known as Macworld/iWorld Expo) as work, and last week’s event in San Francisco was no exception. Though I’ve been to almost every Macworld Expo — in the US and abroad — for the past twenty-five years, it has never felt like work to me. Sure, I’ve used the show as column fodder before (and am doing it again today), but that’s not why I go…

There are two things that keep me coming back to Macworld/iWorld every year. The first should be obvious: I’m a tech geek who loves to discover new products. I can’t think of a better place to discover new hardware and software for the Mac, iPhone, iPad, and other Apple devices and I don’t think there’s anywhere else in the world I could see more tech products that appeal to me under the same roof.

If you’re thinking of CES (the Consumer Electronics Show), you don’t know me very well. While there may sometimes be some cool products for Apple enthusiasts at CES, good luck finding them (or finding other Apple enthusiasts). CES has become massive and takes place under at least a dozen different roofs all over Las Vegas. To me, it’s a huge waste of time; I haven’t gone in years. 

The second reason I go to Macworld every year is the big one: It’s the greatest place on earth to hang out with people who use Apple technology to do cool stuff. Or, as my friend Adam Engst, publisher of TidBITS and the Take Control eBook series, describes it, “it’s a place to chew the fat in greater-than-140-character chunks and relax in the company of those who truly understand us…”

  — Dr. Mac column April 1, 2014 (Houston Chronicle)

I think that’s what I’m going to miss the most. Living in central Texas, as I do, there’s nothing and no place I can relax in the company of thousands of people who truly understand me.

They say that all good things must end. Macworld Expo was a very good thing, but it ended (and so has this tribute).  

Bob “Dr. Mac” LeVitus
October 15, 2014