TV-PGJuly 12, 2002: 2002 has been slow as far as Apple retail grand openings are concerned, but things look like they're about to pick up big time. Meanwhile, the grapevine hints at a 20 GB iPod preparing to surface next week (with possible Windows compatibility), and Nielsen//Netratings tells us what we all already knew: Mac users are better than Wintel users...
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The End Of The Retail Coma (7/12/02)

You know, maybe it's just us, but from our perspective, 2002 has been a real stinkin' dud as far as retail excitement is concerned. Last year, you may recall, was a veritable whirlwind of frantic store openings and the accompanying gala celebratory events; Apple managed to chew through twenty-seven grand openings, and the whole dizzying thrill ride didn't even start until May. In stark contrast, 2002 is now more than half over, and we've seen, what, four new stores in the past six months? And when those few new locations did open their doors to the public, we're told that the ensuing hoopla was of a significantly more muted quality than the debauched and drunken orgies of retail bliss that marked the first round of openings last year. Okay, sure, maybe consumer confidence isn't exactly bubbly with enthusiasm just now, but economy shmeconomy-- that's no reason to deprive us poor Mac fans of our insatiable need to line up outside of a mall at ridiculous hours. (We tried camping outside of an Eddie Bauer four hours before opening, in a desperate attempt to fill the emotional void. It just wasn't the same.)

Just as we were about to despair, however, hope flared anew. As we mentioned recently, Apple finally added a new imminent grand opening to the perennially vacant "Coming Soon" section of its retail page last week; the long-awaited SoHo store will finally go live on Thursday, the day after next week's Stevenote. And between the sheer size and grandeur of the SoHo location (it's Apple's "first flagship retail store"), the sweepstakes in which Apple is giving away a "Digital Lifestyle Collection" worth thousands, and the fact that Manhattan will be largely overrun with a throng of RDF-infused international Mac freaks all looking for a good time, well, we figure this particular hoedown is going to be a rowdy return to the Apple grand openings of yesteryear. Sadly, we'll be corporeally absent, but we'll be there in spirit, overturning burning cars with the rest of you maniacs.

But guess what? SoHo's not the only new store rushing down the pike. Faithful viewer Justin Feldman tipped us off to a Newsday article which reports that Apple also plans to open a new retail store on Long Island, at the Roosevelt Field Mall in Garden City-- just two days after the Manhattan shindig. While at broadcast time the Long Island location still hadn't made the "Coming Soon" list at Apple's site, faithful viewer John W. acted on a hunch and discovered this nifty Apple Store Roosevelt Field web page all ready to go, needing only links to make it come alive. If you're still in the New York area the day after the Expo closes down and you're not too partied out from rockin' SoHo Mac-style, consider dragging your fun-loving carcass out to Long Island for Round 2 of the new era of retail festivities. After all, you can never get enough.

Those of you who think the fun is limited strictly to the Empire State, think again; faithful viewer afterfxguru noticed a slew of new postings on Apple's Retail Job Opportunities page, hinting at upcoming Apple stores in such previously unblessed locales as Des Peres, MO; Emeryville, CA; Las Vegas, NV; Oakbrook, IL; Indianapolis, IN; King of Prussia, PA; and Troy, MI. So even if a road trip to New York isn't in the cards, sit tight and maybe an Apple retail throwdown will bring the party to a swanky mall near you.

Speaking of mall presences, we'd be remiss if we neglected to mention Mike Dell's latest bout of Steve-flavored obsession: apparently ol' Mikey came to the conclusion that he just gotsta have him a retail presence, because faithful viewer FlowFlow notes that CNET is reporting on the sudden sprouting of Dell kiosks in several Texas shopping centers this week. (Not stores-- kiosks.) The kiosks won't stock actual merchandise, but will let mallwalkers test-drive some Dell gear and then order it for home delivery. (Because that approach worked so well for Gateway.) Anyway, it sounds like before long we might be able to leave the plush retail environment of the Apple store and immediately stroll through the mall right past the Dell kiosk-- located right between the Orange Julius stand and the cart with the guy selling "Ask Me What's In My Pants" t-shirts. Classy!

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Posing 'Pod Possibilities (7/12/02)

The keynote is now just five days away, and speculation about what announcements might grace Steve's agenda continues to mount-- despite the ever-harshening consequences Apple doles out to punish those guilty of the heinous crime of Unsanctioned Pondering. Most recently, some hardened thoughtcriminals have raised an interesting possibility: that one of next Wednesday's biggest announcements may, in fact, be small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. With the prospect of faster Power Macs next week looking ever dimmer, some have turned their attention to potential keynote revelations of a more 'Podular persuasion.

When the original 5 GB iPod first surfaced, did you scoff at the supposed wonder of being able to carry a mere "thousand songs" in your pocket? When the 10 GB model was introduced, did the prospect of toting even two thousand tunes in your trousers raise in you nothing more than an impatient sigh and a roll of the eyes? For the past six months or so, have you occasionally been heard to mutter "if they expect me to shell out half a grand for a portable digital music player, that thing better sure as shootin' let me stuff no fewer than four thousand of my fave raves into my jeans, by cracky" to yourself as you went about your morning ablutions? Well, good news, Mr. or Ms. Hard-To-Please (of the Rhode Island Hard-To-Pleases): Think Secret has selflessly obliterated its chances of ever scoring an Expo press pass ever again for all eternity by spilling the beans about next week's alleged new 'Pod.

And yes, apparently it'll hold four thousand songs, thanks to its 20 GB hard disk. Nobody who's been paying attention will find this notion particularly startling, since a 20 GB iPod has always been a matter of "when," not "if"-- but the "when" is allegedly next week, and that's just fine by us. Even more exciting is the price, which Think Secret pegs at $499-- in other words, the cost of a 10 GB iPod today might get you a 20 GB model next week. Meanwhile, the 10 GB unit slides down to the $399 price point, and the lowly 5 GB model goes poink. Vague rumors of a revamped look and/or interface and Bluetooth support are swirling, but it's all too sketchy for us to take seriously. The report that iTunes 3 will accompany the iPod upgrade, however, is music to our ears.

But what of the buzz, loudest at SlapTech, that iTunes 3 will include Windows compatibility, thus officially opening up the iPod to the Dark Side of the Force? Assuming it's true (and we're not yet totally convinced that it is), we're slightly torn on the issue. We certainly like the idea of Apple selling more iPods-- you gotta love some extra money in the till. And getting Windows users to fall in love with their iPods may foster a real appreciation of the elegance of Apple design, and therefore might get those users considering a switch to the Mac when it comes time to upgrade the ol' Wintel. Of course, the flip side of the coin is that adding native Windows compatibility to the iPod removes one of the distinct advantages of Mac ownership; after all, we have met people who bought new Macs solely to use an iPod. It's a tough call.

About all we can say for sure is that if Uncle Steve does announce iTunes 3 for Windows on Wednesday, we bet the screams originating from Mediafour's headquarters will be heard up to three counties away. Perk up those ears!

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Stats Restating The Obvious (7/12/02)

Wow, what better way to kick off the weekend than with a quick self-congratulatory ego-massage? Faithful viewer Peter Cook zapped us a CNET article which reveals that Nielsen//NetRatings has discovered some interesting differences between us Mac fans and our Wintel-using counterparts: apparently we're just much better people than they are. Go figure. And here you thought your sense of smug superiority arose from outdated stereotypes and unfounded generalizations. Nope. Turns out there's science behind that smugness, baby!

According to Nielsen, "those who surf the Web using a Mac tend to be better educated and make more money" than those surfing via Windows. Nielsen also found that Mac users were "more Web savvy," meaning that half of us have apparently been cruising the 'net for "at least five years." We're also reportedly 58% more likely to build our own web pages and "slightly more likely" to buy stuff online. That's presumably in part because we boast "above-average household income and education levels" (ooh la la). It seems that over 70% of us online Mac users have some form of college degree, compared to just 54.2% of the entire online population. C'mon, admit it-- you always knew we were better; it's just that now we have the numbers to prove it.

Now, to be serious for a moment, here, of course we realize that Nielsen's findings don't really state that we're a better class of people than those lowly PC-using mouth-breathing pariahs, because to believe that would make us elitist or something, if not necessarily correct. But c'mon, go ahead-- be insufferable for a while. Dance a little superior dance. Leave aside the egalitarian ideals for just a few minutes and consider it karmic realignment for all those times some dork with a name tag snickered at you when you asked about Mac software in Best Buy. Revel in the fact that, on average, every skeeze who ever mocked your platform choice because "Macs are toys" is making less money than you are. As long as you keep a reasonable sense of perspective, really, what harm could it do?

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