Apple World 2002: Shangri-La Hotel, Bangkok: 1 - 3 November 2002

By Graham K. Rogers

If anyone had doubts about the health of Apple in Thailand, a look inside the Ballroom of the Shangri-La Hotel, last weekend (1-3 November 2002) where Apple World 2002 was being held, would have buried those thoughts totally.

The show had moved from the concrete envelope of the Arnoma Hotel where I knew it first, to the annexe of the Siam Intercontinental Hotel -- itself now a pile of rubble. This latest location has allowed more exhibitors to take advantage of the increased exhibition space. It becomes clear, after a couple of circuits of the hall, where Apple has positioned itself in the technology rankings: high quality imaging (video and stills), music, and printing.

That is not to say that there is nothing for us little guys, although far more needs to be done, especially in the field of education. Recent announcements around the world have an education program in Brazil, a computer rental and buy-back scheme for students in Britain, and (most recent) free OSX for all teachers in the USA who work in the K-12 area. In Thailand? . . . .

What I enjoyed most about this show was a feeling of warmth. I usually wander round an exhibition incognito and ask standard user questions. At some booths in the past, I have been ignored totally. But here, as soon as I paused I was likely to be surrounded by three or four staff eager to talk to me about what was on show.

Metro Sytems Corporation was just such an example. I asked a question about the streamed video that was being shown and was told, in excellent English too, that the data was on both a website and on the three XServers I could see in the background. On this display, as well as on many others, such as Copperwired (the Apple shop in Siam Discovery Center) there were several machines available for anyone to play with. This was an important change from what I had seen before, when such contact was not encouraged at all. Apple had provided several machines for us all to play with, including one dedicated to children, loaded with educational games.

As an example of high level imaging, the Leaf digital camera systems were exciting. As well as the studio system, I was impressed by the portable system. Mr Chui Fai of Leaf showed me how it could link to a hand-held computer and transfer the image using a mobile phone link, directly to the customer. Another high end operator was Digitron Solutions who were displaying video editing technology using both Final Cut Pro (being run on System 9) and Media 100 for OSX.

At my end of the market, the boys at Canon had a couple of really nice printers. Both the S530D at 17,000 baht and the S830D (22,000 baht) are capable of giving such a high quality of print that someone like me would not be able to tell the difference betwen this and a photograph made using film and negative. Coming up behind was the dinky little i320 which would be perfect for the home user. The price of this at the show was 4,000 baht or 5990 with the LiDE20 scanner; but by Sunday morning, Phantip Plaza was full of these printers at 3,500 baht.

Special mention must go to the friendly girls at the Ricoh booth. On the front the guys were grabbing visitors and taking digital pictures of them; while at the back, the girls offered me some welcome (and free) coffee and a pleasant chat. This goes so far in customer relations.

Tucked away in a corner was the Macintosh Center booth. These are the people who do a lot to support Macintosh users in Thailand. On show there were a couple of books in Thai about OSX, which I consider a welcome advance. One covered the latest, Jaguar, version and was priced at 450 baht. On my Sunday visit I asked about their regular publication, MacJournal. The helpful lady was keen to make sure that I knew it was in Thai and not English, and then took me to the registration counter: the latest issue was the show guide and I already had two.

On the Friday afternoon, I caught the first two of the conference items. Denis Beila introduced himself as a professional photographer but after the first couple of minutes into his presentation on Digital Photography, it was clear that his grasp of the technology was firm. Not only was he able to get over to us some difficult concepts, but he managed this through patient explanation and good story-telling so that interest levels were kept high. My one compaint was that, being a stout man, it was not easy for some of us on the audience sides to see the screen at all times. What I could see, coupled with what was in the exhibition hall, made me realise that digital is the way to go and my SLR cameras are destined for the museum.

Having delighted the audience with photography, Biela went on to wow them again with his presentation on Virtual Reality and showed us how to create "immersive media": the image is 360 degrees and moving a mouse will show all sides giving increased interactivity. He has already been using this for advertisements and showed several views that he had created for the Smithsonian Institute allowing visitors to experience far greater input from the exhibits.

He pointed out that QuicktimeVR has 99 tracks of information. We usually think in terms of sound, music and video; but these tracks can also contain code to control a computer (Mac, Windows or Linix) and he showed how the Smithsonian was using this with a swipe card to collect information about visitors: to help them have an enhanced experience from the visit; and to target later advertising.

Biela's latest venture is to port these virtual reality presentations to a hand-held computer such as the Palm (he used a Sony Clio). His final demo was an interactive video which was made with a special attachment to a video camera pointing upwards. He did not mention this, but this reflective donut costs in the region of $900. Nevertheless, it goes on my wish list.

My best of show for us low-end users was the Systematic Instrument Company, from somewhere in Bangna, three of whose lads spent a long time on Sunday afternoon demonstrating the way Bluetooth works with the Mac and OSX. They used a machine that could be linked by ethernet, modem, Bluethooth and also had Airport (broadband radio) in operation. As the Bluetooth connector was 2,900 baht -- a different type was available from Copperwired at 2,500 -- and the Buetooth telephones have begun to come down in price (I had seen one for under 10,000 recently), it means that this technology has become a reality for many users, including me.

For further information, e-mail to Graham K. Rogers.

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