Anyway in the mall, I passed an Apple Store. It had recently been renovated, and I had never been there. (In fact, I'd never been in an Apple Store anywhere.)
I went in. First, I'm not a techie or a remotely skilled computer user. I have no strong feelings about Apple. I went in without preconceptions. I went in really to avoid leaving the mall -- it was freezing out & snowing & I was hoping (dreaming) that a few minutes later it would be a lot warmer and not snowing.
Here's what I think I learned or observed or concluded on my first trip to the Apple Store...
- Michael Dell & Other Consumer PC-Makers: It's Over. Apple Has Won
It may not show up in the numbers, but it will. And the stock price? (Apple's lower than before but way higher than most.) How do I know it's won? I don't. But in my own twisted version of Buffet's maxim -- you learn most about a company through first-hand experience -- a few quick observations....
- It was bitter cold, snowing. The mall was quiet. You could actually hear the water streaming from the marble fountain a floor away. But the Apple Store was packed with people--folks laughing, banging keyboards, sampling the rows of gleaming computers and gadgets, like they were in a high tech Disney World fun park. And there were no give-aways, no store discounts; just another (frigidly cold) day at the mall.
- These people were not like me--i.e., lazy, biding their time before facing the cold. The lines at the cashier were 10-15 people deep the whole time. People were buying.
- For God sakes, people were lining up -- waiting time, 22 minutes -- to get a seat in the Apple "lounge" at the back of the store. What was special there? Nothing. A chance to sit, read some magazines, drink coffee and sample some computer stuff.
- At least 4 people told Apple Geniuses (i.e., sales people) they've used Dells over the years, hadn't considered Macs, but now wanted Macs. These were the 4 I heard, in a few minutes; how many more were there?
- Three people -- moms -- approached Apple store managers to ask how their kids could become Geniuses. The managers laughed. Their answer: Get in line, there's an application list the size of Montana. The moms did get in line, and signed up their sons.
- Think the store's only for teen geeks? (I did.) The people playing were of all ages. Some looked barely 14; others not younger than 70. You have a product or place that teens & geezers both want...you've got a f***ing business!
Do go and read the rest, because it certainly struck a chord with me. Now, I don't get to go to my personal Mecca, a.k.a. the Regent's Street Apple Store, as much as I would like, but even on quiet days (which are, admittedly, rare around Oxford Street. Perhaps I should say "quieter days"), the Apple Store has a buzz around it.
Every time that I have been there, it has looked pretty full (and it's big) with people who seem to be enjoying the experience—and often despite themselves. You can see people playing with the Macs with a slight sneer on their faces: they know that Apples are just niche-market toys, right? Except that you try and actually shift someone off the Mac, and they just don't want to leave it and, as you look more closely, you see that actually they are concentrating on what they are doing—trying to find new things to try out just so that they can justify staying on the machine.
Against all expectations, Apple have developed a retail store that people want to stay in; I've been there at closing time and seen how reluctantly people leave. I have only observed that kind of desire to hang around in pubs at closing time.
DISCLAIMER: I own Apple shares. Still down but, then again, still about 40% above where I bought them, a year ago.