Ten years ago, Apple opened its first retail store. You have to remember that in the spring of 2001 when the first Apple Store opened, the press was quite sure that Apple had lost their minds by venturing into the retail world. But after opening over 300 more stores worldwide, Apple shows that they don't follow, they lead. For the 10th anniversary, or maybe it's just a coincidence, Apple has updated their stores.
Before that first Apple Store, buying a Mac was not the easiest of propositions. There were a few outlets that were authorized Apple Retailers, but they were becoming few and far between. Then there were some superstores that carried Macs and other failed attempts by Sears and others. Most bought Macs either online or through the mail from places like MacWarehouse, MacMall, or MacZone.
I can remember having to travel a couple hours just to get to a 'superstore' that would have only a few Apple products. Worse yet was going to some of the so-called Apple sections of an electronics store to find display models that were either not hooked up or usually broken. Only occasionally would you find an employee that even knew what a Mac was, let alone tell you anything about them.
I'm sure that the retail situation, back in 1999-2000, was just killing the fairly new CEO Steve Jobs. The first Apple Store opened in McLean, Va, The Apple Store is unique in being big, bright, clean, and full of all things Apple - including software and accessories. What made the store so unique was the fact that every computer was on, working, full of the latest software, and connected to the Internet. It was also full of happy and knowledgeable employees.
In the original layout, you would walk into a very open store, but one that was clearly separated in sections. There was a large checkout counter in the front. On one side was the 'home' section for iBooks and iMacs. On the opposite side were the PowerBooks and PowerMac towers. Further back were sections for MP3 players, digital video, and kids. Through the middle of the store was a section for software and accessories.
In the very back of the Apple Store was a large projection screen, which they used regularly for demos and classes. The other unique part was the Genius Bar. This was a real 'bar' with stools and everything. There were no beverages, just a couple of really knowledgeable 'geniuses'. If they didn't know the answer to your Apple related problem they had a special hotline phone they used to get your answer.
Over the years only a few things have changed. The big screens went away to make room for a much larger Genius Bar, which is now a very big part of the Apple Store. Eventually, the front checkout counter even went away. This makes the entrance very wide-open and inviting. To replace the registers, the staff carried around handheld devices where you could pay for your purchases.
Another big part of the floor space in the more modern Apple Store is for customer one-on-one support. This can be iPad tutorials, software/hardware tutorials, or even helping customers transfer files from an old computer to a new computer.
Last Saturday, May 21, Apple closed up their stores, blacked out the windows, and performed another revamp. The biggest part of this revamping was the addition of dozens of iPad 2 tablets bolted to the display tables, basically one next to most every Apple product. These iPads are now used to display prices, specifications, and can even be used to summon an Apple employee, who will appear and help you with questions or to complete your purchase of any products.
It seems a little silly to have 300-plus Apple Stores each with dozens of iPad 2 tablets just sitting there as display cards when Apple can't make iPads fast enough to sell for actual money. If these were original iPad 1 units it would make more sense. I'm not saying that it's a waste, but it's kind of a waste of a new iPad.
If you haven't been to the Apple Store recently, you will find a few changes. The addition of the iPads running a custom APP that can give you more information than a static placard or to summon an Apple employee is probably not enough to say this is Apple Store version 2.0, but it's close. But there is no denying that there is nothing like an Apple Store - my kind of toy store.