iThings Considered

Apple Store vs. Gateway Country

Jake Sargent - 2001.03.20

You've probably seen Gateway Country, those PC stores that taunt you with lousy machines at record prices in cow-spotted computer boxes. Being the Mac freak that you are, you've probably never bothered to wander into one (and if you have, shame on you!).

Apple is about to launch its own line of self-owned stores, and many have touted the chain to be somewhat similar to Gateway's. Truth be told, no one really knows, since Apple hasn't "officially" announced its set of retail stores. But from the information already known and the moves that Apple has made in the past, we can make a fair prediction what these Apple outlets (which I will from now on refer to as the Apple Store) are going to be like.

One of the themes of Gateway Country is accessibility; Gateway has over 300 stores in the States. Gateway Country stores offer shopping, classes, support, and a special "kids zone." Point taken, it's an impressive list of features.

According to recent reports, the Apple Store will have outlets across the country, too. Ones are being planned in San Jose and Chicago, and more are schedule to open in major cities, such as San Francisco and New York, shortly after the initial launch. But Apple Store outlets won't be confined to major metropolitan areas. According to rumors, Apple wants to have a presence across the country and will be opening stores in less populated cities and towns.

Although the actual purpose and goal of the Apple Store is still a little fuzzy, I predict that it will offer many of the same services that Gateway Country does. The outlets will be made to showcase Apple's products in the way they were meant to be showcased, not thrown in with a mix of beige PCs at CompUSA, Best Buy, or Sears. An idea that was mentioned a few months ago, when the Apple store rumors were first published, was that the stores wouldn't actually have Apple products in stock, but customers would visit the store to take the latest Mac for a test drive and order online from the Apple Store. I have faith in this idea and think that Apple could actually pull it off. Not selling the Macs in the store could put employees to better use showing off the latest Apple products rather than ringing them up at the cash register.

There are sure to be in-store demonstrations and perhaps even classes at the Apple Store. Apple already does something similar with Demo Days. I also think that an in-store AppleCare center is a possibility. This service would give customers the opportunity to have small problems fixed (such as the rubber legs falling off my new PowerBook G4), which they may not have gotten around to fixing if they had to send their computer to some lone warehouse in Texas.

All in all, the Apple Store is sure to be a big hit. Sure, it sounds a bit like Gateway Country at the moment, but Apple is famous for putting its own spin on things. And knowing Steve Jobs, the Apple Store will not be what anyone anticipated.

Whatever it is, it will provide a great place for the general public (who aren't as Mac crazy as we are) to learn more about our favorite platform.

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