Macworld Wish List: 10 Products We Want

Apple CEO Steve Jobs didn't make it to last week's Macworld Expo in San Francisco, so the task of unveiling the company's latest, greatest MacBook Pro mobile workstation fell to Philip Schiller, senior marketing VP. While not as exciting as 2007's iPhone or even last year's MacBook Air, this unibody notebook will be the top product in Apple's mobile lineup when it ships later this month and is a fitting opener to our wish list of Macworld products.

Starting at the same $2,799 price tag as Apple's older 17-inch edition, the new top-of-the-line MacBook Pro features a 17-inch screen with 1920x1200 true HD resolution. Configuration options include a 2.66GHz or 2.93GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, Nvidia GeForce 9400M or 9600M GT graphics, 4 GB to 6 GB of DDR3 SDRAM, and either a 320-GB hard disk drive or your choice of a 128-GB or 256-GB solid state drive. Apple promises a whopping eight hours of battery life but at a price -- the 1,000-charge cycle power unit is non-removable.

Apple also launched new versions of its iLife (a "Best of Show" winner) and iWork software suites at Macworld. We were particularly taken by iWork '09's upgrades to the Keynote presentation application, demonstrated here by Apple's Marc Dubresson during the show. Apple has retooled popular, complex slide builds and transitions from the previous version of its PowerPoint alternative, making them push-of-a-button easy to create for users. What's more, a new iPhone app lets you use the smartphone as a remote control to manage a Keynote slide show (inset).

Apple's iWork '09 also includes the updated word-processing app Pages and the spreadsheet program Numbers. It's available now for $79 or with $30 knocked off that price when you purchase a new Mac. The software suite only runs on Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard), which Apple will bundle with iWork '09 and iLife '09 for $169 in its Mac Box Set due out by the end of the month.

Interactive whiteboard maker Smart Technologies wowed kids of all ages with its Smart Table touch-sensitive, flat surface learning center. It's intended for students aged 4 to 8 years old, but we defy people of any age to resist the simple, addictive interface that allows users to manipulate images, play collaborative learning games, sketch, paint and more.

The 27-inch screen is mounted on a soft-paneled box unit that comfortably accommodates about six to eight children and is powered by a locked-down PC. Smart Technologies ships the Smart Table with assorted interactive educational software, such as counting games that require more than 10 fingers on the touch screen to master, meaning children must work as a team to accomplish goals. The Calgary, Canada-based system builder charges $8,000 per unit.

Hewlett-Packard chose Macworld over the Consumer Electronic Show to lift the curtain on its latest Windows Home Server-based system, the HP MediaSmart Server ex485/ex487, thanks to the new unit's compatibility with Apple's Time Machine software for backing up Macs as well as PCs. Heck, it'll even work as an iTunes server. The latest MediaSmart Server is available now and comes in two flavors -- the $599 ex485 with 750 GB of hard disk storage on a single SATA drive and the $749 ex487 with 1.5 TB on two drives. The system has two more expansion bays for hot-swappable drives.

Microsoft's Windows Home Server operating system powers the unit, while HP's own MediaSmart software provides a console interface with the OS and Apple's Time Machine. Built on a 2.0GHz Intel Celeron chip, the MediaSmart Server has four USB ports, one eSATA port, a built-in Ethernet port and also supports wireless networking. This Macworld "Best of Show" winner ships in February.

Apple software subsidiary FileMaker released a new version of its database software at Macworld last Monday, stocking FileMaker Pro 10 with a friendlier, cleaner user interface than the previous edition. While the keystroke commands from Pro 9 have been kept intact for power users, new point-and-click capabilities in Pro 10 add to ease-of-use.

Another Macworld "Best of Show" winner, FileMaker Pro 10 also has the ability to combine data from Oracle, MySQL and Microsoft SQL Server into a single report. Other improvements include a tool for creating different types of reports and more robust Web publishing capabilities. The software maker thinks the new version of this longtime favorite with Mac users stands to gain share on Windows desktops at the expense of market leader Microsoft Access. FileMaker 10 is priced at $299 a seat, with a server edition for workgroups or departments available for $999.

If Blue Microphones' recording devices didn't work a tick we'd still love the distinctive, old-timey look of these analog input devices for the digital age. In fact, Blue's mics work a treat -- and if we're starting to sound like Larry King, it's only for obvious reasons. The company earned its stripes in the professional recording realm with specialized products -- for example, the Dragonfly is built specifically for female vocalists and drum overheads, while the Baby Bottle is designed to capture midrange male rock vocals and instruments like the saxophone.

Blue's Icicle, which is an XLR-to-USB converter that supports XLR mics like the one pictured here, is part of a new line of consumer products. These also include three pro-quality USB microphones (Snowball, Snowflake and Eyeball) and an iPod recorder (Mikey). The Icicle, released in December and priced at $59.99, features a studio-quality microphone preamp, 48V phantom power, a fully-balanced low noise front end, analog gain control, a 44.1 kHz, 16-bit CD quality converter and plugs into Macs and PCs.

Harman's JBL division has a winner on its hands with the sub-$100 Duet II powered speaker system -- this classy high-performance audio combo brings the big sound to Macs and PCs with a small footprint. The Duet II's 3.5mm mini stereo jack allows connectivity to a variety of other audio devices and proprietary Phoenix transducer technology gives the system its great bass, crystal-clear midrange performance and silky-smooth highs.

Each speaker is just four inches in diameter and 10 inches tall (the larger Duet III system measures 4-5/8 x 12 inches) and is available in gray with silver accents. Priced at $99.95, the Duet II and Duet III ($149.95) will be available later this month.

Easily the most entertaining company at Macworld, Smule filled its booth and environs with the sound of music -- being played on iPhones. As Smule's Turner "The Mule" Kirk demonstrates here, the company's 99-cent Ocarina app really does sound like pan pipes and you really can carry a tune on an iPhone. Especially when you jack your device into an amplifier, though that's not necessary to enjoy Ocarina and other musical apps from Smule.

We're guessing dedicated iPhone owners will want to form informal musical groups with Smule apps loaded on their phones. A quartet of the company's own reps periodically rocked the house at Macworld with eerily comical versions of "Stairway to Heaven" and other tunes -- the effect was simultaneously geeky and infectious.

Solio harnesses the power of the sun to power up gadgets with its lineup of universal hybrid chargers like the Solio Classic pictured here and its latest, the Solio Magnesium Edition. These products' rechargeable batteries accept both solar and wall power, can hold charges for up to a year and work with consumer electronics devices ranging from cell phones, to music players, digital cameras to game players -- and of course, the iPod and iPhone.

A fully-charged Solio Classic charges a typical mobile phone more than twice and can supply power for about 20 hours of iPod music play. To go further down the arithmetic route, an hour of sunshine equals 20 minutes of talk time or 50 minutes of music. The Solio Classic costs $99.95 and the even more powerful Solio Mg is priced at $169.95. So whaddya say, little darlin'?

We admit it -- the Device Leash from Mobigrip has "love-it-or-hate-it" written all over it. This incredibly simple device will have some people rolling their eyes while others smack their foreheads for not having thought of it themselves. But at $20, the leash was one of the cheapest products on offer at Macworld that wasn't available at the AppStore or purely decorative.

The concept is straightforward " Mobigrip's leash adheres to most consumer electronic devices and has a little bungee that wraps around your middle finger to prevent you from dropping your gadget. That's it. Like we said, you'll either love it or hate it.