The overall consensus is that this year’s Macworld is a shadow of what it used to be. With Apple’s pulling out, the conference and mystique has shrunk to the point that some are predicting that this Macwold will be the last. “Macworld used to take two days to see,” said one attendee. “This year you can see it in an hour.” While the event has – largely with director Kevin Smith, who absolutely killed in yesterday’s 1 ½ hour Q&A – been able to fill in the absence with an entertaining sheen, the general sense here in the media room is that pickings are pretty slim. That was even apparent in the Best of Show, exhibition floor companies that were chosen by DEMO as the best. The awards, presented by VentureBeat’s Editor-In-Chief Matt Marshall, the new head of DEMO, were indicative of this. Of the six ‘best,’ three were great, and three were pretty blah.

The coolest app was probably the most niche as well. Carina Software’s SkyVoyager is an astronomy app for the iPhone that uses the phone’s compass (or accelerometer on models older than the 3GS) to identify planets and constellations in real time. Point the phone at the sky and SkyVoyager will identify what you’re looking at, while providing tons of educational material about the cosmos.

Also interesting, although perhaps in need of streamlining, was Canson’s Papershow, digital paper for interactive flipchart and PowerPoint presentations. It uses a digital pen and interactive paper (composed of grids of microscopic dots) onto which you print your presentation. With these, you can draw on and annotate your PowerPoint presentations just like a whiteboard.

One of the really nice functions of Papershow is that you can save your presentations and share them with everyone else, which gets rid of the problem with what to do with whiteboard’s notes at a meeting’s end.

On the other hand, having to print your presentation onto the digital paper makes the process more cumbersome – this is an area that the iPad could really do some interesting things in.

The other enticing product in Macworld’s Best of Show was Microvision’s laser pico projector, a lite, iPhone-sized projector that connects to your smartphone and allows you to project TV-sized images (always in focus) onto any surface.

In all honesty, I was pretty bored with the projector until the point in the presentation that showed three guys at a bar watching a soccer game on a jacket. At that moment my life changed.

The rrojector could end up being gamebreaking, but there are a few concerns with the technology as it stands. First, the projector and component cables mean more things to carry around. Second, and more prohibitive, is the price: $500 is very steep for image projection.

Those were the best of the Best of Show. The rest made you wish that Fred Willard was presenting.

By Mark Alvarez