The Genius of Apple Stores

by Hadley Stern Apr 14, 2008

We have written critically here in the past about Apple Stores (and you readers have responded with 100's of comments). This was during a time when Apple stores were first coming out, and there were some growing pains. But as I type this from my local Apple store in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts I have nothing but good things to say. It is 5 PM on a Sunday, and the store is packed. The mall isn't but this store is. This has been my experience recently visiting a number of Apple stores, no matter what, they are packed. And it isn't just people at the Genius bar. It is people looking at iPods, iPhones, Apple TVs, and, of course, Macs. There are people being trained by Apple staff members and people who have appointments with "personal shoppers". Then there is the Genius Bar where people come in with iPods that need resetting or replacing. Macs whose hard drives are dead. Or me, who had an Apple Cinema display that was non-functioning. After a quick test the Genius took care of all the paperwork to have it sent back to Apple to be fixed. It was handled quickly, politely, and without a lot of back and forth concerning paperwork (yes, I had Apple Care).

On the way out I bought an extra power adapter for my Macbook Pro and eyed the new Mac mini longingly. Such is the genius of the Apple store, where Apple products can be bought from knowledgeable, pleasant associates and, if need be, also be repaired by very knowledgable and pleasant Geniuses. As my item was being fixed I couldn't help but listen in to the other Genius conversations around me. There were frustrated users who, when asked if they were running Leopard or Tiger answered, "Safari". Nary a snicker or condescending tone from the Genius, just some follow-up questions to help this person out.

This is the zeitgeist of the Apple user experience made retail.

Yes, to be sure, there are issues, as there are always going to be when humans are involved. There are stupid salespeople, not-so-knowledgeable Geniuses, and the incontrovertible fact that they cannot help everybody. But, in spite of all this, the Apple retail store strategy has proven to be, well, Genius. The physical presence of Apple stores enables people to interact with the brand in a way that Apple can control entirely. Because of this there are things that you would never happen in other stores. Like no electronic security to catch shoplifters that subtly reinforces the notion of trust between Apple and its users. Like a tech support system that is unparalleled in the industry (don't get me started about Geeksquad). All in a no-pressure environment.

Like the original iPod Apple was lambasted when the stores were first announced. The thought was they were making a Gateway-like move that would soon lead to shuttered stores. But Apple stores aren't just stores. They are an example of a physical extension of Apple's core brand premise. I saw today in that store the same vision I observed when booting up my Mac Plus for the first time. The extreme attention to detail, both physically and in terms of human design, throughout the space. I saw something different.


  • What if all the OS’s that used to exist still existed, and it wasn’t just down to these two players?

    I would think natural market forces eventually would have pruned all those relic OS’s anyway and it didn’t have to be DOS, Windows, Mac, and Linux as it is today.

    Like I mentioned above, it could have been completely different: DR-DOS, GEM, Mac, and Unix/Linux. In this scenario, DOS/Windows would have been relegated to history books as mere footnotes.

    “Time is painfully harsh for those who live in the past.”
    -Robo wink

    Robomac had this to say on Apr 16, 2008 Posts: 846
  • If it wasn’t just Microsoft vs Apple, then you might not think of yourself as a Microsoft infidel.  Like our politics, people live in a binary world intellectually.  The Apple Stores can’t be just a store, they have to be “genius.”  It isn’t an MP3 player, it’s the “best MP3 player in the world.”  It isn’t a computer, “it’s the best and most stable operating the world has ever seen.”  And, of course, it MUST be perpetually improved, and quickly.  One must be first and best in everything that one does.  One must conquer the “evil” others who lurk in the shadows, ill-defined and guilty by association and accusation.

    It is not a random coincidence that fascists also think of themselves as superior to everyone else.  They lift themselves up by putting others down.  Fascists want total control and perpetual adulation.  Nothing makes that easier than a clearly defined enemy, which is what Microsoft has provided to Apple (and vice-versa.)  The “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC” ads are built around this trite dichotomy.

    Another way to put it: when there were multiple OS’s, you used to find the right software, and then buy the hardware to run it.  Apple claims that it has the software and hardware you need, but only if you are doing nothing serious with the computer (music, games, photos.)  Apple has always bristled at the implication that it was a “toy” machine, and not a business machine.  But look at what they sell, how they sell it, and who they sell it to.  That is pretty much how they act, and their commercials are equally juvenile with burning bunnies, tanks, dancing and music, and mocking PC.  These are all based on a “good vs evil” tautology.

    The great irony of partisan (fascist) people is that they do not realize just how partisan (fascist) they are.  Their fear of “the other guy” makes everything they do appear as “commonsense” to themselves.

    Steve Consilvio had this to say on Apr 17, 2008 Posts: 47
  • A flawed dichotomy, perhaps.

    But, it is what is, and Apple has to survive one way or the other. The “Hi, I’m a Mac…” ads at least are trying to liven up the otherwise boring affairs. Do not take the adverts too seriously, Steve C. They might just give you the day’s laugh when you desperately needed one. wink

    Apple survived the burning years of 1995-2000 by appealing to the faithful first and foremost. Then the move to regain the freesumers (consumers that are not bound by our dearest IT dept). Apple need not and will not try to sell Macs and iPods to everyone in the universe so quit dreaming. Apple will not make 100 different Mac or iPod variants to fit everyone tastes.

    Apple made a bold move with the Apple Stores and its consumer devices spearheaded by the original iPod. The iMac was intended to keep the diehards pacified but also signaled Apple’s intentions to attack the consumer market by force. Apple has been very successful with this strategy and so, as a consequence, will not change their focus much.

    As the leaked IBM internal memos - the Mac is and will be a big hit with the enterprise for its innate stability of Unix and the elegance and simplicity of OSX.

    If IBM endorses a technology, the enterprise follows. Look no further than Linux in the enterprise server backrooms.

    Robomac had this to say on Apr 17, 2008 Posts: 846
  • Being a Mac elitist, of course I laugh.  grin
    But I also cringe, too.

    Nobody wants to see a friend harm themselves, or anything bad happen to them.  The thing is, I don’t see Microsoft hurting as anybody’s gain, whereas Apple does.  It is far better to have no enemies.  That is the true essence of Thinking Different.  Of course, when you don’t fear what others fear, (or love what others love,) they think you are crazy and untrustworthy. 

    For there to be an infidel there has to be an orthodoxy first.  Imagine a world without battles for orthodoxy.

    Would it be so terrible if people made their own low-cost Macs, for example?

    Steve Consilvio had this to say on Apr 18, 2008 Posts: 47
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