Macworld Expo begins as Apple battles for tablet, smart-phone supremacy 

Call it Apple’s county fair.

About 26,000 Apple fanboys and girls are expected to gather at the Moscone Center today through Saturday for Macworld Expo 2011. The 27-year-old annual convention no longer includes any formal connection to the Cupertino company, but 270 vendors of Apple products will be there to show off their latest wares and apps for the popular electronics.

About one-third of vendors and half the visitors will be new to Macworld this year, expo President Paul Kent said, reflecting Apple’s newfound stature thanks to the popularity of the iPhone and iPad. On Jan. 18, Apple Inc. (AAPL) announced record revenue of $26.74 billion and a record net quarterly profit of $6 billion. Its stock reached $337.45 per share this week, from a low of $85.30 on March 6, 2009.

But Apple faces a worldwide battle for smart-phone and tablet supremacy this year, as competitors team up behind Google’s Android operating system to take on the ascendant company, said Scott Schwarzhoff, vice president of marketing at Appcelerator.

That Mountain View company powers more than 1.5 million Web developers working on apps for both Apple and Android products. A recent Appcelerator developer survey suggested that Apple is vulnerable to both price and hardware threats.

Android tablets and smart phones are going to be cheaper than Apple products this year, while others will outperform them, he said. Some tablets might cost less than $200, compared to $500 for the cheapest iPad. The new Motorola Atrix smart phone boasts fast dual-core processors, a 1 gigabyte memory card and the ability to run Flash video — three things not available on the iPhone.

“Is Apple vulnerable?” Schwarzhoff said. “Oh, I think so. About 85 tablets running primarily on Android were announced at the Consumer Electronics Show this year. Motorola’s tablet Xoom won ‘Best of Show.’ Out of the gate this year, it’s tablet, tablet, tablet, tablet. This is a classic rematch of the PC versus Mac days back in the early ’90s.”

Macworld vendor Vimeo hopes to stay above the fray by making sure its video-sharing site runs on both platforms. Spokeswoman Deborah Szajngarten said Vimeo will use its modest kiosk to reach out to Apple users.

“We love working with Apple, but they’re obviously not the only ones we work with,” she said. “I just came back from [the Consumer Electronics Show] and some of the stuff coming out on Android was pretty slick.”

Fun, light programming planned for tech convention

Apple bowed out of Macworld Expo in 2009. Since then, the convention’s goal has not been to replace the famous keynotes from company founder Steve Jobs, but go with something fun and light.

“The goal is educational info-tainment,” Macworld Expo President Paul Kent said. “The history is we used to have the greatest keynote speaker in the history of keynote speakers, and the thought of trying to replace that didn’t really appeal to us.”

This year, the entertainer Sinbad will deliver a “feature presentation” combining standup comedy with lessons on how technology unleashes the creative aspects of his life.

Dream Theater keyboardist Jordan Rudess will demonstrate his Morphwhiz app, an iPad synthesizer Rudess uses in live Dream Theater performances.

Also entertaining will be Zoe Keating, the North Bay’s well-known classical cellist, who will be accompanied by virtual-orchestra software.

— David Downs


Macworld Expo 2011

Moscone Center, San Francisco

When: Conference, Jan. 26-29; Expo, Jan. 27-29; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Price: From $870 Super Pass to $45 Expo Only pass


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