Once again for Christmas
2001 , I braved the mall scene to go Christmas shopping, and I
want to tell you, The
Apple Store has been the coolest thing I've seen since
I came across the Metreon in downtown SF a couple years ago. The
store looked a little temporary, but after perusing the Apple
web site, I see now that this is just because its minimalist design
focuses all attention on the merchandise.
What really struck
me is how far along these guys have come with industrial design
for the consumer computing appliances. I bought a Fat Mac in college
when they first came out, and loved it. I was set to be an Apple
convert for life except that the doggoned things cost too much,
Apple never did customers any favors on upgrades, eventually the
PC got a decent GUI, and I decided to make my living developing
software, which meant PC not Mac if I wanted to be successful.
The Apple Store
What these guys
have to sell is not the easiest to use computer in history, despite
what they say. They're selling Style, pure and simple.
This Apple store is all about being hip in an artistically sensitive
kind of way.
Like to wear Armani?
Drive a Porsche? Have a house decorated in a contemporary style?
Then you need to buy some things from Apple, because they have
targeted your demographic to a "T". In that sense, this
store is just like a Bang & Olufsen or Porsche Design outlet.
They're all over this, and I am their demographic, so I love it!
The store was exceptionally
well merchandised compared to the normal Fry's or Circuit City.
Lots of friendly intelligent sales people are there to lend just
the right amount of support. Every computer system there was decked
out with cool peripherals. Nearly every one of them had a cool
digital camera, for example. In fact, a digital camera fiend would
be as excited as a computer lover in this store there were so
many to choose from. There were also digital video cams, scanners,
sound systems, and every other imaginable thing to connect to
your Mac. This store is about not just buying computers from Apple,
but about all the many things you'll want to have with your computer
Let me give you
a brief photo tour and description of what I saw there.
I walked in to the
Apple store hoping to see an iPod, and I wasn't disappointed.
There were about six of them sitting around, all live functioning
devices rather than the mock-ups a place like Fry's would make
you play with.
The iPod is the
size of a pack of cigarettes and holds 6 gigs of music data. It
has a FireWire interface, so you can transfer information to it
at hard disk speeds. Frankly, these pictures do not do it justice.
You have to hold one in your hand to really get the picture. This
is a personal digital appliance I totally lust after!
The thing has heft
to it that suggests worth like a gold Rolex President watch. Even
the plastic on top has depth and luster that make you forget it
is plastic, and think in terms of some high tech aviation composite
cum exotic natural pearl-like material.
The screen and controls
are creamy smooth in operation, with none of the clicky-doesn't-always-make-crisp-contact
feel so many consumer products have.
It's only vice?
You have to own a Mac because it doesn't talk to PC's. Argh! I
would buy one this instant if that were not true!
The Apple AirPort
is wireless networking in the eye of an industrial designer.
Made of the same shimmery material as the iPod front panel, these
little flying saucers look playful, but they connect all your
gear via 802.11b. No plugging in a PC card is needed, just use
USB. For convenience, the AirPort also has a 10/100 Ethernet connector
on back to go to your DSL modem, which will automatically make
it available to all Mac's in the vicinity, as well as a 56KB modem
connection, which will also automatically be shared among Mac's
on the Wi-Fi wireless LAN. It also has a built-in firewall so
you don't have to worry about those nasty hackers coming into
Compared to the
trouble I've gone through on occasion to make my PC's network,
I can only look on with green envy at how easy it looks in the
Marc Levinson and
Krell look positively plebian alongside this cool looking box.
I don't think I've seen a better looking tower anywhere. Pity
that within it beats the soul of a Power Mac G4 rather than a
I have seen one
case (no pun intended!) in my internet travels where an individual
liked it so much he removed the Mac guts and put a PC in there.
It's awfully tempting, but the Borgcube
would not be amused. These white boxes are the antithesis of my
Darth Vader black cube!
Goodness these were
cool displays! They're HUGE! 1600 by 1200 pixels, and the form
factor really makes sense to me. Not only would it be good for
watching widescreen movies, but it makes more sense for computing
productivity. 4:3 with this much resolution means you're wasting
the horizontal dimension. The average WYSIWYG page is an 8 1/2
by 11 affair. With this monitor you can see things side by side.
It really makes sense to refer to it as the "desktop",
rather than most monitors which are like throwing all your documents
into the bottom of a trashcan and trying to work on them there.
The good news is
that Apple monitors will work for PC's. Who know? If my NEC gives
out I will be sorely tempted. It's called the Apple Cinema
Display, and it rocks. The bad news is that one of these beauties
will set you back about $2500. Ouch!
was so sweet. Brushed aluminum and this wild plastic composite
material everywhere. Solid feeling construction. The single mouse
button is metal too! What a beauty!
Along with the Apple
hardware was a raft of non-Apple items that looked tailor-made
for the stylish Macs. The Canon scanner pictured on the
left was just one such, although it did look like Apple had some
kind of deal to market all sorts of Canon products.
There were digital
still cameras, digital video cameras, and a host of other gew
Pro Mouse and Pro Keyboard are absolutely gorgeous.
Having only one button meant the mouse could hide its button so
that it is triggered by rocking the case. In practice it felt a
little weird, but would be workable. You just have to click as though
there is a button there and not think about it too much.
Pro Speakers by Harmon Kardon are yet another cool transparent
design to pamper the eyes and ears with.
Sound Sticks and iSub subwoofer were on sale at Apple too. Very
If you haven't
gathered by now, I absolutely loved the whole experience. My single
complaint is why can't these guys make a Wintel box that looks like
this? When will Apple realize that what they sell is style, and the
rest of it is just hubris? Does my Porsche have to run on a special
fuel that I can't buy everywhere? No, but a Mac requires special software.
Consequently, it isn't anything I want to get involved with. Apple would
be so far ahead if they went Wintel it isn't funny. They could quit
reinventing so many wheels. I'd bet they could build a shell on top
of Windows that would preserve their look and feel. So they need to
get another button on their mice--big deal! They could quit building
motherboards and quit worrying whether the Power PC microprocessor is
keeping up (it isn't!). If they sold a Wintel box I'd have bought one
years ago as would zillions of others. They could charge exactly the
same prices they do today and get higher margins due to lower R&D
costs, as well as joining in with the economies of scale of the behemoth
Wintel marketplace. What a pity.
When are these Apple guys going
to make me happy?