Many would say Macworld has lost some of its luster since Apple decided to pull out of the annual trade show. Indeed, what once took up two entire exhibition halls at San Francisco's Moscone Center is now reduced to a much smaller show floor. The 2011 exhibitor list also lacked a number of big-name brands that used to be mainstays--Microsoft, Adobe, Canon, and Logitech, just to name a few.
Despite that, however, the show was absolutely buzzing with people this year. When I walked the exhibition hall, I was surprised by the sheer number of attendees--I was definitely bumping elbows as I tried to get from booth to booth. Even more surprising was the fact that the show wasn't all about boring accessories and cases--there were also a few innovative gadgets on display, if you cared enough to pay attention. In fact, I saw at least two gadgets that might be on my gift wishlist. Here are five of the coolest things I saw at the show:
1. McTiVia--This tops my list as the most exciting product I saw at Macworld 2011. It's essentially a wireless router that will let you stream all of the content on your Mac or PC to your big-screen TV via Wi-Fi.
It has a very small footprint and has two antennae like most wireless routers--in fact, it also acts as a home wireless access point. No longer do you need an AppleTV, Google TV box, Boxee box, or even a Roku if you think about it (you can just watch Hulu or Netflix in the browser!). You can also use your iPhone or Android phone as a remote for controlling your computer. The downside? It's $199.99, which is rather expensive. Also, it has a somewhat unfortunate name--it reminds me of a certain probiotic yogurt brand.
2. Fling--Produced by TenOne design, Fling is an analog joystick for the iPad. It consists of two suction cups attached to thumbpads. You can attach them to your iPad, and use them as precise and accurate controllers for a variety of shooting games. You can shoot with one thumbpad, and move around with the other. You can buy a single pad for $20, or a pair for $35.
3. iGrill--We saw this at CES 2011, but I still thought it was quite an eye-catcher on the show floor. Simply connect your iPad or iPhone to the iGrill thermometer via Bluetooth, and you can monitor the temperature of your grilled beast from anywhere within 50 feet via the iGrill app. The iGrill is $99.99 retail.
4. TikTok and LunaTik--You have to love a product with a grassroots funding campaign. The TikTok and LunaTik watchbands are meant to be fitted with an iPod Nano to act as a digital watch. If you think the idea is silly, you must not be one of the 13,512 people who helped fund this project via KickStarter, a funding platform that lets the public chip in as much money as they want.
In fact, Scott Wilson and the Minimal team earned a total of $941,718 by the end of the pledge program. The TikTok has a simple snap-in design, while the LunaTik secures the iPod Nano in a two-piece aluminum case. I saw the product at the show, and I'm impressed that they actually made it. You can preorder the TikTok for $34.95 and the LunaTik for $69.95.
5. Pico projectors--There were quite a number of pico projectors at Macworld, but the Microvision Showwx+ caught my eye. You can hook it up to your iPad or iPhone, of course, and the projector itself is almost as small as the phone. It promises to stream video up to 100 inches in image size and 50 percent brighter than the previous model. Unfortunately, they're rather expensive--the Microvision Showwx+ is around
$450 $399.99 each. (Edit: We've been told by Microvision that it's actually $399.99)
For more pictures from Macworld 2011, be sure to check out our Scenes from Macworld 2011 gallery.