Hundreds of Mac users braved the rain to attend MacExpo 2002 yesterday. Queues formed outside Islington’s Business Design Centre before the event’s official 10am start.

Apple, the show organizers and its partners across the UK Mac industry have worked hard to present a high-quality show this year.

Apple’s appearance at last year’s show and again this year gave MacExpo the support it needed to become a national Mac show, organizers claim. Apple UK’s PR manager David Millar couldn’t say if the company would attend next year, though. He claims: “Apple hasn’t made the decision to attend next year. This is based on planning cycles – it is too early for the company to commit.”

However, Millar adds: “The show looks busy, the stands look good. Apple wants to provide a premium experience for its customers.”

Apple's buzz Internally, Apple staff enjoy events like MacExpo, Millar says: “People at Apple look forward to this - it’s great to meet the customers. It creates a buzz within the company.”

Retrospect developer Dantz’s UK channel manager Khalid Arif says: “The great thing about Apple attending an event like this is that it tells UK Mac users they aren’t isolated any more.” As a user of both Macs and Windows, he adds: “Mac shows tend to be more energized than PC shows, which have a tendency to be professionally orientated.

“Since Steve Jobs returned to lead Apple, the company has once again become famous across the industry for its innovation. An Apple show is interesting to Mac users – and Windows users, as they come to see Apple’s innovative solutions reach market.”

Feedback Arif explains: “It is important for users to know there is a place they can come to talk with vendors, to give feedback. That is important to vendors because customers will talk about their future needs – vendors need feedback like this.”

Mark Cottam, president of games publisher MacPlay, has flown across from the US to appear at the event.

“We needed to attend. Europe is a major part of the Mac market. MacPlay thinks it is important to show UK Mac users that the UK market matters to us. The venue looks great too, and I’m impressed by the quality of the exhibits,” he says.

Mac-upgrade manufacturer Sonnet’s European PR Ralf Kratz came from Switzerland to visit the show. He says: “Sonnett is very pleased there is a UK Mac event. All last years exhibitors are here, and attendance seems higher.”

MacExpo 2002 attracts a large contingent of professional users interested in solutions for DTP and Web design, Kratz claims. He adds: “Sonnett still sells a lot of upgrades for blue-&-white G3 Power Macs. It appears people are upgrading Macs every two or three years.”

“Users like upgrades because it extends their system’s useful life while they ride out a tough market,” Kratz argues. “This is good for Apple too, as it shows the company’s systems have a longer useful life than other PC brands,” Kratz observes.

Hot cakes Ruth Knight, marketing manager of WorkStrip publisher SoftChaos, was positive about the first day of the show. She says: “MacExpo is going really well, we are selling product like hot cakes. It is proving to be a real selling show.”

Looking at the migration to Mac OS X, Knight observes: “Here at the stand we genuinely get the feeling people are taking Mac OS X more seriously.” While Mac users were curious about Apple’s operating system last year, this year’s attendees appear to have made – or are preparing to make – the migration to OS X, she explains.

Macromedia is running a rolling seminar programme at the event, offering in-depth product demonstrations of its MX product range, including Dreamweaver, Flash, Freehand and Fireworks. Macromedia’s technical sales manager Jon Harris says: “The overall interest in OS X and products running OS X is significant in contrast to last year’s event. Macromedia is attracting a great audience.”

UK training and Mac support company X Generation’s service manager John Jones says: “The stalls are of a very high quality this year. Small and large firms in the industry have made more of an effort to make an impression.”

Jones says: “Apple’s stand was at the back of the hall last year – this was good as it drove the crowd through all the other exhibitors. With Apple at the front of the hall this year, attendees need to wade through the crowd around its stand to make it to the exhibitors at the back of the hall.” Despite this criticism, Jones was happy with the show so far. “There’s lots of people coming through,” he says.

Sunny side Hermstedt’s UK managing director Andy Eakins remarks: “I have been too busy to see the show. It is going very well. Perhaps the industry should swap pessimism for optimism.”

Apple resellers are gathered toward the back of the hall, creating a scrum of show attendees eager to acquire new peripherals and Apple kit at special discount show prices. It appears to be a buyer’s show. Computer Warehouse managing director Jonathan Cole confirms this, saying: “We couldn’t do more business if we wanted to – there aren’t enough tills.”

He added: “It is nice to have a UK show again at last.”

Show organizer MacExpo Events part owner Bob Denton said he was happy, adding: “Attendance so far has been good. The hall is gobbling people up better than last year, as there is more space.”

Future Regarding the shows future venue, Denton was uncertain, saying “There are a couple of options. People are being asked to sign up for the Business Design Centre, but we do have an option on Olympia next year. Any decision to move will be taken in consultation with the exhibitors.”

Any decision to move will, in part, be based on attendance. Denton asks: “What if 40,000 people turned up? The feedback from exhibitors is that they like the area and the halls, there is the possibility of running a four-day event to cater for more attendees, and Islington’s a well-resourced area with lots of amenities.”

“Exhibitors are being asked to re-sign for Islington. The show may move, but it all depends on numbers and the attitude of the exhibitors,” he said.

Apple once ran its own Apple Expo in the UK. “Apple Expo at its peak attracted 35,000 visitors,” said Denton. “There is no reason not to attract the same number again,” he surmised.

Denton summed up: “MacExpo runs for 23 hours. We have had five of them and we are happy – we’ll see how happy tomorrow.”