It is that time once again, for the Mac faithful to converge on San Francisco and Moscone Center to witness all that is new, shiny and a “must have” to complete your accessory collection of Apple-centric stuff…

First off, it really feels different without Apple having a presence here. The best metaphor I can come up with in my 5-Hour Energy induced state, is that – it’s their party (Apple), but they decided not to show up.

Nonetheless, vendors and enthusiasts are here wide-eyed and eager to assist and promote their latest app, and accessory for the Apple platform.

As always there are a ton of companies with their rendition of the best iPad or iPhone case. We’ve got water resistant, scratch resistant and even drop resistant products. All viable solutions, all in varied colors and textures and designs. You figure, when you have a good majority of the digitally connected world using your device, you can’t just make one style or color of case (not everyone wants black silicone).

On the app side, I’ve walked the expo hall probably 3 times already and am pleasantly surprised to see more of a variety of apps being introduced for the iOS and OS X platforms. There’s a definite focus on music, video and photo production using the iOS platform; various producers and filmmakers from the iPhone Film Festival will be onsite screening a handful of films for the first time this week.

The booths that got me to stop and take a closer look so far were:

  • Dolly Drive – I actually met this team a few months ago at CES. At the core, Dolly Drive provides online backup storage and data recovery. You can sync, you can store and you can even clone your bootable image. The real differentiator that Dolly Drive has over their competitors is that they work seamlessly with Time Machine. Mac users rejoice, because THAT is pretty cool.

  • Nivio – Now these guys didn’t make this list just because they’ve invited me to their ultra secret launch party tonight (free beer and wine don’t sway my decisions). I’m actually quite impressed with what Nivio has been able to accomplish. Essentially they have taken the pain out of deploying remote desktop and computing environments. In a perfect tech world, everyone would have a MacBook on their lap and not really have a need to fire up Windows 7 or God-forbid, Windows XP. But that’s not the case, many business professionals still need to access Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc. What Nivio has made available is a fully functional Windows desktop from the Cloud. On nivio, users have access to an App-Store where they can rent applications, such as the complete Microsoft productivity suite, and take advantage of 10GB of upgradeable, free synchronized storage. nivio is accessible from any iOS, Android, Mac, Windows or Linux device, including iPads, Android tablets, PCs and laptops.

  • Schneider Optics iPro Lens – Uh oh OlloClip, there’s some competition in town. OlloClip, for those that may not know is itself a great product that many of us first heard about through Kickstarter; it provides 3 clip on lenses (macro, fisheye and wide angle) for your iPhone 4/4S – the only challenge with OlloClip is that a majority of folks want and need a case for their device (no case option with OlloClip). Enter iPro Lens which was also just recently launched at CES 2012 – it only has 2 lenses, fisheye and wide angle, but the winning aspect – it includes a case (and a nice one at that)

The User Conference is no more, now the sessions are referred to as Tech Talks. On my schedule today is:

  • Appalooza: Top 25 iPad2 Apps for Social Media
  • Macworld Magazine Senior Editor Chris Breen will conduct an interview and we’ll be entertained with a performance by moe
  • Macworld RapidFire: Five (5) minute, to-the-point topics to help us grasp a specific concept or develop a new approach to using Apple technology (sounds like an abbreviated TED Talk to me) – I’ll let you know how this one works out.

Obviously there’s much MUCH more. The conference has only been on for 6 hours so I’m not drawing too many conclusions – there is much more to see and many more people to talk to.

I just wanted to give you a quick glimpse into my initial experiences at Macworld | iWorld – more to come soon !