Macworld 2011: Apps, Gadgets & Announcements

Over the past week, the AppStorm team has been hanging out in San Francisco at Macworld 2011. Despite scaling back a little this year (and changing the venue to Moscone West), Macworld is still faring well without Apple.

As also seemed to be the case at WWDC in recent years, a big emphasis was placed on iOS – and the associated apps and accessories. Thankfully, after wading through a sea of iPhone cases and stands (which I’m sure will be adequately covered on iPhone.AppStorm!), there was still plenty to see for those primarily interested in the Mac platform.

In today’s post I’ll be looking at a handful of my favourite apps, hardware, and announcements over the course week, along with sharing a few thoughts on our general experience at Macworld.

On the Expo Floor

McTiVia HD Video Streaming

It’s a common problem – not being sure of which cable is the correct one to attach your Macbook to the T.V. And even after you’ve figured out the array of cables, you’re usually limited by the length of the wire in question.

McTiVia’s product allows you to wirelessly stream the contents of your screen to your television, through a local Wi-Fi network. This removes the need for cables, and video quality was excellent in the demonstration we saw. It’s also possible to use a keyboard and mouse near your computer to wirelessly control the computer (data is passed back over the wireless connection).

If you regularly find yourself wanting to stream content from your notebook to a HD TV, it’s definitely worth reading more about the device, or ordering one online for $199.

Global Delight’s Boom

Although you might think that the speaker in your Macbook is fairly limited in terms of volume, it can actually go far louder than is enabled by default in most applications. If you’ve ever used VLC, you may have noticed that it’s easy to increase the volume of video far beyond what you could specify in Quicktime or iTunes.

Boom ($4.99) – a new application from Global Delight – helps to solve this problem by increasing the volume across your entire system. You’ll be impressed with the volume level that can be achieved, even from a relatively low-powered Macbook speaker.

Although it’s never going to be a replacement for a dedicated external speaker, Boom is worth taking a look at if you regularly use your device in a noisy environment.

Dolly Drive

One of the main limitations of Time Machine – and a reason why so many people still use alternative backup solutions – is the inability to upload your backup to a cloud service. It’s hard to beat the security of completely off-site storage, even though Time Machine is a convenient and simple backup utility.

Dolly Drive has the simple aim of making your Time Machine backup available remotely. A copy of your backup is stored in the cloud, and you can connect in exactly the same way you would a local archive (albeit with a slight hit in performance).

The pricing structure is impressive too, starting at just $10 per month for 250GB of data, with a gradual increment system if you find that you need to use more ($5/month extra per 50GB increase).

Personally, I don’t think I find this quite as useful as Dropbox, and don’t really need all my Time Machine data backed up in the cloud (that copy of Photoshop can always be re-installed from a DVD, and there’s no need to pay for space to store it online).

Another less publicised benefit of Dolly Drive is the ability to turn your local Time Machine backup into a bootable drive, saving you quite a bit of time if you suffer a hard drive failure.

Appetites

Despite the fact that this app is slightly better suited for our sister site, iPhone.AppStorm, I wanted to mention it here as well. Appetites was one of the few applications to show a real appreciation for the importance of mobile app design, and it stood head and shoulders above much of the other iPad software on display.

It’s essentially a carefully designed and curated recipe application, placing emphasis on first-person video of all the recipes included. The interface is beautiful, the videos have an incredibly high production value, and the application is a complete pleasure to use.

Appetites is scheduled for release sometime next month, and I’m already convinced that it will be one of my favorite applications of 2011. Stay tuned (and sign up to hear more), as we’ll certainly be talking about it more at iPhone.AppStorm in the coming months!

FormEntry

Although I believe FormEntry has been around for some time, it’s a piece of software that I haven’t come across before. Designed by Widget Press, FormEntry ($19.99) is a really simple way to design an iOS data-collection application on your Mac, with no knowledge of programming required.

With a straight-forward drag and drop interface, you specify what should be included in your custom application. This includes text fields, a photo picker, switches, checkmarks, a signature, and various other controls. The layout of your app is easy to customise, and everything fits in with the iPhone interface.

After designing your “app form”, you then specify how it should be sent to you – via email, a HTTP POST request, as a PDF, or even printed over AirPrint. All you need is the freely available iOS client through which to run your application, and you’re good to go! A fantastic solution if you’re wanting to design a really simple data-entry/collection app for your business.

Scanners Galore

It’s easy to think that, in our digital day and age, scanning technology is pretty outdated and old school. I don’t think this could be farther from the truth, and use my own Fujitsu scanner almost every day for digitising documents and receipts.

Wandering around the expo floor showed that many companies are starting to explore this market further, and the latest scanners are a long way removed from your old 1990′s flatbed!

Two of my favourites were the NeatReceipts scanner (priced at $199), and the Fujitsu Scansnap S1100, coming in at the same price.

There’s relatively little to pick between these two, but they are both fine examples of a portable scanning companion for your Macbook. Although portability isn’t necessarily the number one feature you may look for in a scanner, it’s great to have something that takes up a very small footprint on your desk.

BoinxTV Home

“Whether it is a video report of current affairs for your family and friends far away, a tutorial on how to tie your shoes really fast or a message of love, if you’ve got something to tell the world, want to look good and have fun doing it, BoinxTV Home is your tool of choice.”

A good description of what this newly announced application is capable of! BoinxTV Home is the little brother to the fully-loaded BoinxTV, with a few features stripped out (multiple camera support, unlimited layers, and full 1080p HD). It’s still a very powerful application, perfect if you’re wanting to supercharge your webcam video.

It supports the ability to experiment with text overlays, tickers, “lower thirds”, and built-in chroma keying (green screen). You can add effects to the video in real-time as you record, and easily export your creation to a number of different platforms.

BulletTrain Express

If you use your Mac as a media centre, I’m sure there are times when you’ve been frustrated with the options for controlling the computer remotely. I often get tired of using my knee as a Magic Mouse platform, and have wished for something a solution that’s a little more Apple-esque.

The BulletTrain Express

The BulletTrain Express

One interesting product announced was the BulletTrain Express, an aluminium device that holds both your Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad and recreates the feel of a Macbook keyboard area. It fits perfectly on your lap, and is definitely appealing solution for sitting in front of your big HDTV.

The downside? It’s priced at $129 (and doesn’t include the Magic Trackpad or Mouse). It’s a fairly high price to pay, but it might be just what your Mac media centre is missing…

Is Macworld on Its Last Legs?

An ongoing discussion during the conference centered around whether Macworld as we know it has a future in the long-run. Everyone I spoke to commented on how it’s a completely different event to previous years, highlighting the impact of Apple deciding to pull out before last year’s event.

Although Apple’s departure obviously has a negative angle – Macworld no longer receives the media frenzy of a huge Apple product launch – there are a few hidden positives. Developers noted that visitors used to come with the primary – and often sole – intention of playing with Apple’s latest gadget, rather than to find out about new third party accessories and software.

With the new Macworld format, this has become the primary reason to attend. The Mobile Apps Showcase and Indie Mac Developer areas encourage those with a lesser budget to still make an appearance, and the spotlight has certainly turned away from Apple, toward everyone else.

Although it was fantastic to meet a handful of wonderful developers – Smile Software, Marketcircle, Apparent Software, Creaceed, and The Omni Group to name a few – I felt that the conference was under-represented by Mac software developers on the whole. There are so many applications that I know would have benefitted hugely from the exposure available, but were either put off by the cost or time required to exhibit.

Macworld/IDG, can’t just sit back and expect these developers to attend without being approached and encouraged to turn up. It’s a sales process after all, and it is the responsibility of the conference organizers to make sure that our most-loved developers feel that Macworld is an opportunity not to be missed.

My Hope for Next Year

My main hope for Macworld 2012 boils down to a tighter level of curation. There were countless products showcased this year that were either poorly conceived or completely ridiculous, and these serve to drag down the perceived quality of the expo as a whole. There are so many incredibly high quality apps and products available for the Mac, there’s no need to stoop to a low level.

I hope that next year we see the conference organizers saying “no” to sub-par exhibitors a little more often and, at the same time, a much better executed sales initiative for targeting developers that absolutely should be there.

I sincerely hope that Macworld remains here to stay, as it’s the only time when Mac users and developers can get together in such a fantastic environment. Minor complaints aside, we had a wonderful time meeting both developers and readers of this site. Thanks to everyone who stopped to say “Hello”, and I hope we’ll get to see you again next year!

Left to right: Josh Johnson, Myself, Joel Bankhead, and Ryan Cash (Marketcircle)

Left to right: Josh Johnson, Myself, Joel Bankhead, and Ryan Cash (Marketcircle)


  • John

    The NeatRecipts software is just OK at best. I ended up getting rid of my Neatreceipts scanner.

  • Khalid

    Very good article!. I loved the BulletTrain Express, it looks so kool!

  • http://royalthoughts.com Ryan Cash

    Just noticed this post – neat that you included the photo ;)

  • katie rishworth

    hi my name is katie rishworth

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