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My first Macworld, Pre-show and Keynote

macworldHaving never been to a Macworld before, let alone San Francisco, I thought I'd let those of you who have never been here in on some first impressions. First off, San Francisco is quite an amazing town. The people have been fantastic, the food, the architecture, and so on. But this isn't a travel blog, it's a Mac blog. So let me tell you about this Macworld thing, seen through the eyes of a total MWSF n00b. And I want to thank everyone for sending in those comments and suggestions on things to do in the City (see, I got it). At least I never called it "frisco."

My father, brother, and I travelled to San Francisco with one goal in mind: see the rock show that is the keynote. In fact, we are leaving today because my brother has to get back to his college classes before he gets in trouble. Since when did education mean not broadening your horizons? Oh well. Yes, we paid nearly $200 a person just to be at the real Macworld for a day. We're crazy like that. Luckily, since we got up at 4 a.m. and stood in line for a couple of hours, we did. But I'll talk about that in a moment.Sunday, we went ahead and tried to see what we could see. I wouldn't do this. The staff at the Moscone Center are very polite, but also very stern. It's like trying to walk into Apple HQ—you are not allowed.

macworldSo Monday is the day to pick up your passes and grab some free magazines. There's a guy at the Moscone with a great accent (sounded Italian), can't remember his name, but he was fantastic. He handled us so pleasantly, and we got our passes in no time flat. In fact, when my companions bought tickets to some soiree nearby (for Tuesday night), he gave detailed directions on how to get there with this addition, "go and dance for me. I used to go and dance all the time, but now I do not, so go and dance and enjoy for me."

Monday's registration begins to get you in the mood for this whole Apple lovefest thing, but I had no idea how crazy it would really get. We wandered downstairs to look at the plasma screens (no Apple logos on them, so there went that theory), and just generally get into trouble. We hung a right, and found stacks of great magazines all for free! Macaddict, Macworld (duh), and several niche design mags that I ate up with a spoon. That's why they give you a tote bag when you register. And so you know, pretty much the entire process and staff is handled with a variety of Macs. From iBooks to Powerbooks to eMacs to the old G4 iMac, they are everywhere. For someone who works in a room full of Dells, I immediately thought I'd died and gone to IT blissful heaven.

macworldAs we continued our push deeper into the bowels of the Moscone we could kind of peek into the exhibit hall as some exhibitors went in. And then, all of a sudden, I ran into an old high-school chum I hadn't seen since 1990. It truly is a small world. Unfortunately, he had never heard of TUAW. So I educated him. Daniel, you better be a regular reader from now on buddy. Ultimately, there isn't much to see on Monday, because nothing has started. It's still very cool that they let you run around anyway, just to get a lay of the land.

Well, the rest of the day was spent at Fisherman's Wharf, so I won't bore you with our touristy details. I will say this though: Sunday and Monday had some of the best weather ever. We could see all the way out to Belvedere and beyond, which is apparently quite a feat. This morning it's so foggy I can barely see the first tower on Bay Bridge (just outside our window).

macworldSo on Tuesday morning for the keynote, we got up at 4 am. Even staying a couple of blocks away, this is a good idea. By the time we got there the line extended around to the back of Moscone, tightly wrapped around the building, and we were standing in a park area in the back. Then we all had to move onto the sidewalk, some distance out. By this time it's 5:30 am, and people are arriving in droves. I have never seen so many Starbucks coffee cups in all my life. Standing in line like a bunch of maniacs is also a great time to get to know your other Mac brethren. I'm amazed at the folks who are just there because work sent them, and not because this is a pilgrimage or something for their own personal gratification.

macworldEventually they started letting us queue up inside, which was pretty easy. As you snake your way down the huge escalator, you wind up getting put into what I could only describe as a holding pen for geeks. In three big lines, we sat for nearly an hour. No wireless, but thanks to the magic of Bonjour, several of us IM'ed and then met face to face. One guy was an avid reader, but several others asked what TUAW meant (that was my available message)... After some re-nerducation, and a little hand shaking and so forth, we all wound up just admiring the gadgets and glory of the Mac experience. One guy in front of me was showing off an ancient Newton. That probably would have worked better than my system for reporting on the keynote, but I digress.

Within another hour or so, all our legs had fallen asleep, so we stood up. I anticipated another orderly single-file move into the big room where we'd see the keynote. Instead, it was, as Leo Laporte put it, a "mad dash for open seating at an Aerosmith concert." It began as a simple move forward, but quickly devolved to angry Moscone and Apple employees shouting "no running" like lifeguards at the kiddy pool. It was a little nuts. Did we all somehow know this was to be a historic keynote?

Adding to the fun were some operational and non-operational escalators. Really, all of them should have been shut down, as the constant motion of one led to just a bit of a human crush of people. But at some point, we made it into the hall. Naturally, all the VIP's had been seated. My family tried to find a good spot, and when they opened up one of the VIP seating areas, we got to sit just a few rows back from the likes of Guy Kawasaki (I later got to shake his hand). We were in the first group of seats, on the far right hand side, opposite the hall from all the media cameras. While it was far away from Steve when he does the demos, there aren't any bad seats in the hall. At least not when the RDF kicks in.

jobsWithin a few minutes of sitting down, it seemed like everyone was hushed, and the lights went low, the stage lighting came up, and Jobs appeared. You know all the details by now, and then some. iPods are indeed taking over, sales overall are great. iWeb is "web publishing for the rest of us." iWork is "an iterative release." Intel's CEO came out in a puff of smoke, presenting Jobs the chip as though it were the One True Ring. And those nifty new Intel Macs, mm mm good. There were a bunch of campus reps sitting behind and to the side of me, absolutely lapping it all up. Their enthusiasm was contagious, although I have to admit the RDF didn't fully permeate me as I had expected. Must have taken the right meds that day. But I'll rain on the parade in another post.

After the keynote, Steve left us basking in the afterglow of what was a monumental, if not utterly astounding, keynote. The lights came up, and everyone ran for the door. Well, it was pretty orderly. I can only assume most folks were going to the Apple store to buy that FM tuner. Because, you know, THAT has been the one thing those holdouts have been waiting for...

So we hung back for a bit. Thanks to the magic of those badges, I saw a parade of big shots as the VIP section emptied out with the rest of us peons. Intel bigwigs, media big shots, and other people who make more money in a day than I'll see in my life. Immediately I spotted Guy Kawasaki (didn't need the badge to recognize him). All I asked for was a handshake, which he gave graciously as he had a phone call.

As I stood there gawking at the rich folks, another familiar face drifted by... A short, stocky man with a ponytail, facial hair, and Oakley's with headphones built-in... He seemed familiar. To make sure, I looked at his badge. Steve Wozniak, Wheels of Zeus. As the kids say, OMFG. Again, being the meek mortal that I am, I merely asked for a handshake. Flashing that trademark grin, he gladly obliged. Thanks Woz, you're a class act all the way.

macworldEveryone filters out of the keynote upstairs, and has to wait a bit before getting in to the real show floor. Again, we passed by several recognizable names and faces from the media, Apple, and elsewhere. For some people this is probably a pretty normal experience, but for me, it was really cool to be rubbing elbows (albeit anonymously) with the elite of the tech world. Still, one of the coolest things about the keynote had to be the air of excitement as we all walked out just brimming with the joy of shiny new things.

UPDATE: Here's the link from Guy Kawasaki showing Steve's slideshow. You'll need to download the FilmLoop viewer, but it's available for Mac and PC.

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