More Feedback from NECC/Chicago

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Date: Monday, February 1st, 1999, 00:00
Category: Archive

I arrived at McCormick Place at 6:45 this morning, to find registration in full swing and about 100 people already in line for Steve Jobs’s 8:30 keynote address. I noticed almost immediately when entering the facility that Apple had the predominant corporate presence, with an impressive booth just inside the door of the show floor, Apple-logo goodie bags, and lots of people wandering around with Apple Distinguished Educator polo shirts.


I arrived at McCormick Place at 6:45 this morning, to find registration in full swing and about 100 people already in line for Steve Jobs’s 8:30 keynote address. I noticed almost immediately when entering the facility that Apple had the predominant corporate presence, with an impressive booth just inside the door of the show floor, Apple-logo goodie bags, and lots of people wandering around with Apple Distinguished Educator polo shirts.

Many people in line were carrying iBooks, and I soon learned that Apple was also running a check-out program where conference attendees could borrow an iBook for the day, carry it around the conference, surf on the wireless network, etc. Very cool idea! But they must have been using access control on the Airport network, because I couldn’t connect to it from my Pismo.

While chatting in line I also learned that the conference consisted mainly of people who buy and manage technology for K-12 school districts. (I’m just a local web developer who took the opportunity to see Steve here in the midwest.) Their typical job function is upgrading the software on 100 iMacs using Network Assistant. The folks I talked to were surprisingly pro-Mac and surprisingly well-equipped … although of course the well-equipped districts are the most likely to send people to the conference.

The doors opened in good time and I took a seat in the third row of the public section (behind a 30-row VIP section). This was my first time seeing Steve talk, but the whole scene was very familiar from the photos and webcasts — dark purple drapes with two glowing Apple logos, an enormous projection screen, and a G4 at a little black table to the side. And when Steve walked out with blue jeans, black turtleneck, and a bottle of mineral water, everything was familiar indeed.

The talk was organized around the three groups of educators that Apple is addressing: Students, Teachers, and Administrators. Steve pushed iBook for students, iMovie and iDVD for teachers, and PowerSchool for administrators. He took some direct shots at Dell and Compaq when describing the iBook, and his comments seemed to hit their targets among the audience. There were good vibes all around about the iBook.

Personally, I was impressed by PowerSchool, which obviously isn’t PowerBook related, but a cool product nevertheless. It’s an entirely web based school administration system, which lets teachers, staff, and parents share information instantaneously. That’s right, a parent can log into PowerSchool from work and make sure his or her kids were on time for math class! They can also see a running total of the student’s grade in real time, rather than waiting until the end of the term, when it’s too late to do anything about it. As PowerSchool’s president said, “I’m kind of glad they didn’t have this when I was a kid.”

There were also some iDVD and iTools demos, and Steve left after about 50 minutes. No new product intros, no new iMac … but a good crowd and a nice opportunity to see the industry from a different perspective. Definitely a nice way for a Mac junkie to start the week, and I was even back in the office by 10:30!

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