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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Macworld 2013 recap: Products and places to eat

Macworld 2013 kicked off beneath blue skies at San Francisco's Moscone West convention center. And even though it was the end of January it felt like summer. The weather was perfection. It was one of those days you had to love being in California.

I'd been working for the previous week and a half at the Menlo Park Techshop helping my friend (and boss) Richard Ford to build his Insanely Great iPhone Products car and desktop iPhone holders.

Pictured is "The Jack" and "The WIlly" by Insanely Great Products

We sold several styles of iPhone and iPad holders that the crowd loved. The Clip and Go and Traveler were the most popular this year probably because of the advent of audible turn by turn map directions now available on the iPhone. Our booth featured Insanely Great Products, DARWINmachine iPad stands and Madsonline multi-bay charging stations.

So the day before MacWorld opened Richard and I arrived with all of the inventory and gear to set up our booth. First I had to register and receive my exhibitor's badge to be able to access the building.

Then we drove down to the underground loading dock beneath Moscone West and unloaded everything we would need in our booth onto a wooden pallet that was plastic wrapped and delivered to the showroom floor. Yay! No schlepping for us.

After spending the next four hours setting up the booth Richard had a business dinner to get to so I stayed another hour and finished before wandering out to find somewhere to have dinner. Just a couple of blocks away I found the Sushi Club restaurant. I'd never been there but was too tired to look up Yelp ratings so I wandered in.

 I ordered the Grilled Salmon Skin Roll, a plate of vegetable tempura and water. My total bill +tax and tip was around $16. The food was good as was the service. I'd definitely go back again.

The best and worst part? In my exhaustion I forgot my cell phone when I left. I realized it as soon as I got back to my hotel room so I turned around and went back to the restaurant. As the hostess/waitress saw me approach the door she smiled and retrieved my phone from beneath the counter. TY Sushi Club.

Each morning we arrived at the Expo Hall at 8:30 AM so that we could set out or displays and organize the booth by 10:00 AM.

That's Richard Founder/Owner/Designer of Insanely Great Products in the top image and our friend Gordon in the lower picture.

One thing to note about Macworld is the traditional trade show "Booth Babes" (aka scantily clad women used to draw attendees into a booth using overt sexuality) seem to be frowned upon at Macworld. Which meant Richard ordered me a very respectable IGProducts polo shirt to wear while working in his booth.

What I learned working at Macworld was being a salesperson is like riding a bike, you never forget how. Years ago I worked in retail sales for a decade, the majority of them at Nordstrom. Macworld reminded me of working the first day of the Anniversary or a Half Yearly sale. It was crazy busy!

That night I met a friend for dinner at Millennium restaurant. But I can't review it here. Since it was my first visit and we had a long dinner I really have to write a separate post to review it properly. Suffice to say it's now on my short list of favorite SF restaurants. I'll add the link here after I publish the post.

Day two the weather was great again and the crowd never ending.

Inside the Expo Hall booths ranged from large and expensive to small stations.

Our neighbor's across the aisle from us, iBallz, used their booth space to set up their very cute Boler fiberglass trailer! Their product was hilarious. It's four foam balls held to the four corners of an iPad with a tension drawstring to prevent it from breaking when it falls on the ground.

The hilarious part was to demonstrate its effectiveness they would throw an iPad, over and over, all day long, into the aisle. So on a fairly regular basis we would see a flying iPad launch from their booth and fall unharmed to the aisle between or beside us. What a great testimonial.

The Clip and Go

While iBallz was tossing their demo around I was busy selling insanely great iPhone holders. I think the crowd favorite was my favorite and the car holder I use in my own car, the Clip and Go.

It's a piece of sturdy clear or black acrylic with rounded corners and a slight bend to one end. It's held to your car air vent via a binder clip. Everyone laughs when they see the clip assuming it's an ordinary binder clip. But it's not. It's enhanced which means there's a special rubberized-type coating applied to the back so that it won't scratch or accidentally slip off your vent. It's incredibly stable.

Once you clip the holder to your vent you can leave it there indefinitely. I pop my phone on and off using the super strong suction cup (with a quick release tab) to hold it in place while I'm on the road. The biggest advantage for me is that I do have a bluetooth system in my car and I like to be able to see the caller ID before picking up a call while driving.

People loved the simplicity and functionality of this particular model and at $15 the price was just right for almost everyone.

We also had two other TechShop members working in our booth. One was Matt who made the rookie move of purchasing a sandwich and bottle of water at one of the Moscone concession stands. LOL. He came back to the booth in shock that he just paid "$20 for a pre-packaged sandwich and a bottle of water." I commiserated that I too made the same mistake at my first MacWorld in 2007 but on a positive note I told him he'd only make that mistake once.

While poor Matt was eating his ordinary but expensive sandwich, my foodie friend Carl swung by and took me to lunch at 'wichcraft, a sandwich restaurant he'd been dying to try and didn't realize there was one within walking distance of Moscone West. We went and ordered two sandwiches and split them. We tried the Aged Gruyére ($6.65) with roasted onions on rye (a toasted pressed sandwich) and the Chopped Chickpea ($7.35) with roasted peppers, green olives, lemon, and organic mixed greens.

The Chopped Chickpea was my favorite of the two but was just a bit overdone with the lemon juice. Not so strong it was inedible but it would have been more pleasant had the flavors been a bit more balanced. Even then the ingredients were very fresh, wholesome, and much more nutritious than what any concession stand sandwich could offer.

And that's Matt in the top picture. Insanely Great Products sells his DARWINmachine brand Frameshift iPad stands on its website. When I first saw them online last fall I decided I'd get hubby one for the iPad he uses on his tv show John Wants Answers. Especially after it became an award winning show. As you can see in the lower left picture he used to use part of a cardboard packing carton to hold his iPad upright. Now he's using his very sleek and modern Frameshift stand.

It's a a great product because:
  1. The tension in the arm is incredibly stable, this device will never slide or splay open while in use.
  2. It's made of CNC aircraft grade aluminum, military grade rubber padding, and stainless steel hardware so it's both sturdy and lightweight.
  3. It folds down flat so you can travel with it.
  4. It comes in anodized black, blue and red color options.
  5. You can use it in portrait or landscape mode.
  6. If you use your iPad to Facetime or Skype the Frameshift will hold your iPad in an almost vertical position which means your built in camera is aimed at your face, not your forehead or ceiling creating a better camera angle for the person you're interacting with.
  7. Just like the Insanely Great Products, Matt's products are designed and made in Menlo Park so you're supporting a local small business when you purchase one.
There's also a display/commerce model, the Frameshift Pro, if you use your iPad for presentations or if you use it as a checkout stand for your small business.

There's also a new Frameshift Mini for the iPad Mini or iPhone 5.

You may have also noticed the cool microphone on hubby's desk in the picture of him on his show. It's the Yeti, a USB microphone that looks both retro and cool at the same time. At Macworld the company Blue Microphones, also showcased some of their other mics. This one in particular caught my eye because I know so many wedding and event DJ's. The Spark Digital is too cool. While it's both USB and iPad friendly I'm not sure if it's meant to be used on location or works only as a studio mic but I thought I'd share it so any interested DJ's or performers can look into it themselves.

And not the brand I use but the olloclip is one I will consider if I ever lose my Photojojo magnetic fisheye again. The small clip on lens has fisheye, wide angle, and macro lenses all built into one convenient device. If you're a regular reader you know how much I love having a fisheye lens for my iPhone. In fact, it's what inspired me to finally use my phone camera at all, something I never used to do since I've always carried a pocket or my MF3 camera in my purse at all times.

The myFC Powertrekk Fuel Cell Charger also caught my eye. At first I thought it would be great to use on my teardrop trailer. It's not an extra battery or charger, it's a portable fuel cell. You add a TBS of water to a small reservoir that works in tandem with a small, disposable, aluminum powder power pack that generates fuel you can use to recharge a USB device. The only issue I have with it is that the power packs cost a few dollars each and as far as I can tell, are only good for one time use. They are a good solution for outdoorsy people who are going to be completely off the grid but may want to have an ER power solution for a cell phone or tablet.

And talk about showy, The NEXGEN SKINS booth led me to believe this is the ultimate accessory company. Their wrapped monitors were definitely eye catching. They seem to offer them for every Mac device you can think of from cell phones to iPads, laptops, mouses, keyboards, and desktop monitors. They also offer phone skins for man other brands so this isn't a Mac specific product line.

ATECH offers the electric power assisted sBike. The electric power assist makes it easier to pedal because the bike does some of the work for you.

It's "smart" because it syncs to your iPhone and the cloud. The bike has a powerful platform for multiple future cloud based services including "experience mapping" where you'll be able to share your riding experience with friends. Later there will also be vital sign monitoring to uplink your physics to your chosen clinic while riding.

The top picture features the only "bicycle/motorcyle surround sound system" in the world. It's a 10W surround sound system you can connect to through your iPhone (it fits into the empty space in the photo) and Bluetooth. The stereo speakers double as a speaker phone so you can take an incoming call while riding. While currently an integrated feature on their e-bike, based on viewer response they will turn the speakers in an after market kit as there is a definite interest and demand for the product.

I think the coolest booth at Macworld 2013 was the Polk Audio booth. I watched them build it on set up night and it looked like a lot of work.

As I was passing by to grab lunch the second day I realized it was an interactive booth. There was a live band in the sound proof glass booth! Expo attendees could sit and watch the performance but you could only listen to the quality of the music through the Polk headphones. I wish I'd taken a picture when I saw the band playing and all of the seats taken. It was a very popular booth!

That day I decided to go on a lunchtime adventure. For months I'd been wanting to try a restaurant I'd read about online called Sushirirto. It's like a maki sushi roll but made huge and cut in half like a burrito. The problem is they close after lunch each day and aren't open on weekends so I'd never made it there the past few months.

I walked by a lot of restaurants on the way there but Sushirrito was the only place with a line out the door.

Once inside I realized it was because there wasn't much space for people to wait in the restaurant itself. There's no seating at all. It's an odd combination of restaurant / street food. Kind of like a drive-in but you walk in and walk out.

I ordered the Salmon Samba ($9.50) which is Teriyaki-Baked Salmon, Tempura Asparagus, Cucumber, Butter Lettuce, Avocado, Pepitas, Green Onions and a Wasabi Mayo wrapped in a sheet of toasted nori seaweed. It was fan-freaking-tastic!

My only advice is not to unwrap the sushi from the paper before eating it. Keep it rolled up as the nori isn't strong enough to hold everything together the way a tortilla is. I unwrapped it to show you the nori then wrapped it back up again. It was so big I could only eat half. I took the rest back to share with Matt in the booth.

Oh, and a second tip, there are benches in the alley right beside the restaurant and if you're lucky you'll score one. If not, I'd walk over to the Yerba Buena Gardens on Mission and as Julia Roberts said in Pretty Woman "cop-a-squat" on the lawn or go across the street to Jessie Square where I saw Henry Lipkis' mural.

Day two was off to a good culinary start!

We sold all day until 5:00 PM then Richard and I walked up to one of my favorite restaurants for dinner. New Delhi Restaurant is located just a couple of blocks from the San Francisco Centre on Ellis Street.

We had a fantastic dinner ordering the Fish Masala, Assorted Vegetable Platter (which includes a Samosa, Onion Bahji, Pakora and Papadum), Chicken Vindaloo, Naan, and Pullao Rice. For the vegetable platter we wanted two Samosa's so our server said we could forego the Pakora pieces and receive two Samosas instead. I definitely need to visit New Delhi more often. Not only was the food delicious, the service was impeccable.

After dinner we walked to North Beach to attend a Macworld party Richard had been invited to. It was the Cirque du Mac X party that features the MacWorld All-Star Band. I told Richard I'd be shocked if I knew a single soul attending the party but I guess I'm geekier than I thought I was because Daniel Kottke gave me a huge hug when he saw me. I know Daniel through the weekly dinner club hubby started right after we began dating.

Later Richard mused that I'm much more dialed in to the geek scene than I think I am. I guess he's right.

The next morning we were back at the show for the final day. Most of the time our booth looked like this but even more crowded around the counter. The day flew by. Before I knew it it was time to pack up and grab some dinner.

Eating at The Grove is like being at a picnic in the woods

Gordon suggested we try The Grove, just a block down Mission Street. Let me tell you, after working in a booth for three days straight a block felt like a mile to my tired feet but Gordon promised we'd find the best cherry pie ever if we went. He was right. I ate mine first as my appetizer because there's nothing I hate worse at dinner than being too full to enjoy my dessert. LOL.

After reading the menu I realized the reason their pie is so good is because it's made by an award wining pastry chef! The menu says:

Scrupmtious Cakes and Fruit Pies ………………………..…$5.50
From Award-winning Mission Beach Cafe Pastry Chef Alan Carter.

And let me tell you, if I ever dine there with you, don't be at all surprised when I order two pieces of pie and a glass of water (and no other food) for lunch or dinner. It's that good.

That night Richard and I went back to the hotel and chatted a bit before I went back to my room. It was then he noticed that Lex Friedman, a Senior Writer at Macworld, had written and published an article titled "Expo Notes: The FrameShift Mini props up your iPhone 5 or iPad mini". Wow. The show was barely over and already some press had been written about one of the Insanely Great Products.

The next morning we headed back to Moscone to pick up our pallet on the loading dock and head home. It was a fun four days in the city and one I'll probably repeat next year if Richard wants me to work in his booth again. Though I may have to work one half day so that I'll have time to actually see the show! LOL

The links to the companies I mentioned are in the post but here's a restaurant guide with bonus locations not mentioned in the post for the next time you're near Moscone and looking for somewhere to eat within walking distance. The walking times listed are each way, not roundtrip:

New Delhi Restaurant - website
(7 minute walk from Moscone West)
160 Ellis Street
San Francisco, CA 94102

Samovar Tea Lounge - website
(3 minute walk from Moscone West)
730 Howard Street
San Francisco, CA 94103

Westfield San Francisco Centre - website
(3 minute walk from Moscone West)
This is a shopping center with a plethora or dining options to choose from with entrances on Mission, Fifth Street and Market Street.
865 Market Street
San Francisco CA 94103

Super Duper Burger - website
(3 minute walk from Moscone West)
783 Mission St
San Francisco, CA 94103

Sushi Club
(5 minute walk from Moscone West)
71 5th Street
San Francisco CA 94103

Sushirrito - website
(8 minute walk from Moscone West)
59 New Montgomery Street
San Francisco, CA 94105

The Grove - website
(5 minute walk from Moscone West)
690 Mission Street
San Francisco. 94105

'wIchcraft - website
(3 minute walk from Moscone West)
868 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94103

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