The main reason Macworld added "iWorld" to its name is the burgeoning ecosystem of the Apple iPhone, with the Apple iPad coming on strong. If this show proves anything, it's that these two market-creating products have become, on the one hand, intensely fashion-forward extensions of the daily routine -- and on the other, impressively powerful general-purpose computing devices capable of ever-more technology magic.
The large number of booths pitching imaginative software apps at this conference in San Francisco illustrates this point beautifully. And there were tons of cases and other accessories supporting it, too.
For the iPhone, Apps Grow More Ambitious
The Apple Apps Store is, of course, the true source of the iPhone's market strength, and Macworld/iWorld set up a larger area in the center of the convention where apps makers could rent a quadrant of a booth, just large enough for one or two people to stand in with a small desk for their demo, but inexpensive relative to typical booth prices. There must have been a hundred vendors, most of them offering both iPhone and iPad versions of their products.
There was, of course, no common theme. Many products, perhaps the majority, were small, one-note utilities doing small, useful things. Readdle, for example, had a Calendar app that adds some features to one built into the iPhone or iPad. There was a document viewer and file manager, a wireless printer utility, a PDF annotator, and an interesting little utility that turns your iPhone into a portable document scanner for $6.99, you can use your iPhone camera to scan documents and upload them to Dropbox, Google Docs, Evernote, and email.
Then, on a completely different note, there was Appweavers, Inc., which has put the entire book 'Peterson Birds of North America' on the iPhone. It has the significant advantage that, not only can you take it out on your birding jaunts, but you can play the birdsongs while you're out there, helping with identification (there are literally millions of birding hobbyists in the U.S).
One of my favorite apps is VIPorbit, a "mobile relationships management solution" that does for your iPhone contacts list what Google+ does with its Circles: Lets you organize all your contacts by multiple "orbits," and annotate and cross-reference them in increasingly elaborate ways. The app is free to download, but only handles 200 contacts before you have to pay $14.95 for the full version. A historical curiosity: The company is founded by Mike Muhney, who created ACT! back in 1987, a product which pretty much launched the contact management category for PCs back then. This was quickly followed by such memorable sale-team aides as GoldMine and Maximizer. Now Muhney is trying to turn the iPhone into a high-powered organizer.
CoPilot Live is a GPS navigation system for both iPhone and iPad, with all the features of $100+ GPS car navigators, but at $20 for the iPhone or $30 for the iPad. The system works the same on both platforms, but on the iPad they are able to display a split-screen view of both the 2D or 3D road you're traveling and the turn-by-turn text directions.
An Amazing Video Editing Solution
Finally, and most impressive of all, perhaps, is the new video editing system from i4Software, which the company boldy calls "Video Camera" on the grounds that they are "re-inventing" video filmmaking and especially, editing.
The three dozen chairs in front of the 14Software booth were filled to capacity for every one of the firm's four-times-an-hour demos. The software, and it's hard to believe this is "just" an app, has two miracles up its sleeve. First, it contains a non-linear editing (NLE) program which lets you jump around your video and edit various parts, cut and paste and move chunks around without destroying the source video (until you finalize and save the edited version). NLE systems such as Avid, Apple's Final Cut Pro, and Adobe Premiere are typically expensive, and require high-end desktop systems beefed up with lots of RAM and fast video cards. The idea that this app can perform NLE on a tiny iPhone 4 and produce not just standard-definition video output, but 720p and even 1080p - well, that's amazing.
Oh, yes - and it costs $7.99 in the App Store.
With this software, you shoot your video clips, then arrange them and trim them as you wish, add music, add titles, and then let the iPhone process the final video. You can then upload it to YouTube and the like.
That's only one miracle; the second is that the software takes advantage of the iPhone's Wi-Fi capabilities to let you link up to 8 iPhones and/or iPads. One unit acts as the master and gathers the streaming video from the others, then you edit them together in the same way. So you can have multiple camerapersons shooting the same scene from different angles (or at the same time from different places), and combine the results into a sophisticated work.
The company spokesperson told me they are setting up a network that will let you call upon the community of Video Camera users worldwide to find - or request - specific shots so you can include them in your work. Soon you'll be able to incorporate exterior shots from the streets of Paris to add plausibility to your interior scenes for your drama supposedly set in Paris, but actually shot in Dubuque. And in a future feature, they hope to be able to have live "Camera 1! Camera 2!" selection capabilities, as they do in live TV studios.
This is Part 1 of a multi-page MacWorld iWorld 2012 Wrap-Up. Part 2 covers cases, cradles, and and other accessories.
This is the second half of a two-page article about the latest MacWorld tradeshow. Part 1 covered iPhone apps that were on display.
iPhone Cases, Cradles, and Accessories: Both Fun and Useful
I counted a dozen vendors of iPhone cases, ranging from gorgeously artistic to glittery-gawdy, plus a line of "photo handbags" that let you put your favorite photos or images onto cases, sleeves, leather iPhone skins, a wrist clutch, a wrist wallet, purses, and even a tote (www.snaptotes.com). Mounts were everywhere, too: suction-cup mounts so you can distract yourself while driving; and extension poles so you can get that high shot with your iPhone. And while we're at it, Throw in gadgets to help you hold your iPhone, such as the tiny FlyGrip (flygrip.com, $29.95, includes case). I have been using the FlyGrip and case and it does, indeed, give me a more secure grip on my iPhone while I'm poking at the screen.
Then there are vendors like Solid Line (solidlineproducts.com), who extend the convenience of using your iPhone with a $75 case that includes a little slide-out keyboard, for those who want actual keys to hunt-and-peck on.
And bringing up the rear, there were those selling screen protectors, such as Zagg's Invisible Shield HD said to be "virtually indestructible" and with "Nano-Memory Technology" with "self-healing qualities", based on "military-grade patented material". Or Tru Protection's own "self-healing air jacket for the iPhone 4" anti-glare film. Or, taking another tack, Liquid-Armor, which instead of using a plastic film, gives you a bottle of a liquid that you apply to the screen, giving it "a remarkable nano-coating technology" that is twice as scratch resistant (they say) as the plastic films, and even repels dust. And you don't even have to worry about film bubbles.
There is even a company (Lenspen) just selling a screen cleaner pad, the Sidekick - no liquids, no tissues, no cloths.
One of the more charming little gadgets, to me, was a little piece of curved metal called the Wave Cradle (wavecradle.com). Lean your iPhone on this unimposing, $20 stand and get an 8 decibel increase in volume from the iPhone speakers. The irony of this clever device acting as an analog enhancement to the digital iPhone did not escape me.
And finally, in the small-nifty-gadgets category, Kudos Power was showing its iPhone case with a significant difference: it enables your iPhone to be charged wirelessly, just by placing it on a charger pad. Unlike previous such charger add-ons, this one is pretty light and isn't too bulky.
On the somewhat heavier-duty side, Parat Solutions is one of two vendors showing docks that charge and synchronize large numbers of iPhones or iPads at once -- ideal for schools, museums, resorts, and other institutions managing volumes of devices. The iPod/iPhone dock looks like a slotted tray, holds 20 devices at a time, requires no manual handling of cables, and is managed from one connected Macintosh (Anthro was showing a similar device, but on wheels).
Both these devices cost a thousand dollars or more. On the less pricey side, Kanex announced a charger it calls Sydnee, which charges four iPhones, iPads, or iPods at once, for $150.
And finally, as the iPhone gains a growing reputation for the quality of its 1080HD video capabilities, and videographers are coming up with frames that let them mount professional lenses on their iPhones, Schneider Optics has stepped up with its own frame, the iPro Lens. For $200, you get a hard plastic case with a handle, and two Schneider lenses (a wide-angle and a fisheye) that attach with a bayonet mount (a telephoto lens is said to be forthcoming, to be sold separately). Interestingly, the lenses, when not in use, fit into the handle. Another device, the iSupport, mentioned previously, lets you screw on your existing standard SLR or videocamera lenses.