The Mac Retail Paradise (6/29/00)

While the "new iMacs" rumor hovers near the top of the Keynote Likelihood Scale, there are a ton of other whispers you may have heard that hit rather lower on the graph. For instance, damn near nobody is still talking about the possibility of an Apple-branded Palm-based PDA breaking onto the scene (small wonder, given Schiller's public denial of any such product), and in fact we've seriously considered flat-out stating that no such beast will ever see the light of day-- purely in hopes that Apple will then ship one just to prove us wrong. A little public humiliation is a small price to pay for Apple's re-entry into the PDA market. Of course, once we realized that no one at Apple with that kind of clout even knows we exist, we figured, hey, why disillusion the fans who still cling to a tattered shred of hope?

Anyway, if the Apple-Palm rumors have been done to death, then this other subject has been all but ground into dust-- but somehow it keeps crawling back from that great rumor mill in the sky. We're talking about the possibility of Apple opening its own retail stores. And the reason this particular scenario keeps popping up again and again like some kind of rumorological Whack-A-Mole is because, frankly, it makes perfect sense on several levels. Macs are different computers; they need to be sold differently for maximum effect. History has shown us time and time again that throwing Macs on the shelves with the Wintels in a computer superstore staffed by minimum-wage-slaves whose computer knowledge and expertise stops with all things "Quake" leads to a Mac-buying experience that's, uh, "sub-optimal." And while great strides have been made with the whole "store within a store" strategy, what Apple really needs is total control over the retail sales experience. Where the whole beautiful vision falls apart, of course, is where money enters the equation; Apple's market share just doesn't seem high enough to justify maintaining multiple Mac-only retail locations. But we can dream, can't we?

Mac OS Rumors sure can-- and this is one dream that still might possibly come true. A reader claims that a recent issue of The International Design Magazine reported that U.K. design firm Marc Newson Ltd. is "working with Apple to design [its] retail outlets." Now, we haven't a clue as to the reliability of that publication, but it lends more credence to this long-standing rumor. Apple does have a lot of cash in the bank, so we can't consider it so wacky a notion that the company might be banking on Apple Store retail locations to push its market share higher. And if it's a Gateway-Country-style peripherals-and-test-drive-only chain, as Mac OS Rumors suggests, then costs go way down, since product distribution becomes virtually nil. So just how far-fetched is it that Steve may announce brick-and-mortar Apple Stores when he takes the stage in a few weeks? Well, if we were the little gnomes in control of the Magic 8-Ball, we'd probably opt for "Reply hazy, try again," or maybe even "Very doubtful," but either of those is still a lot better than the dreaded "My reply is no."

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The above scene was taken from the 6/29/00 episode:

June 29, 2000: More evidence that a new iMac is just around the corner: the low-end iMac shows up as "discontinued" in CompUSA's inventory system. Meanwhile, rumors continue to spread that Apple's gearing up to launch its own Mac-only retail outlets, and those wild stories about Apple planning to ship a wireless mouse with every Mac don't seem quite so crazy in light of Logitech's product prices...

Other scenes from that episode:

  • 2389: More Evidence Mounting (6/29/00)   We think it's pretty safe to say that there is no way-- no way-- that Steve Jobs is going to leave the stage at Macworld Expo in three weeks without taking the wraps off of some shiny new hardware. If history has taught us anything, it's that domestic Expo keynotes bring us cool new gear...

  • 2391: Wires Are So '90s (6/29/00)   Here's one more Expo quickie for the road: you've heard, of course, the rumors that Apple will finally ship a redesigned mouse and keyboard with this alleged new iMac next month, yes? Now, we had no trouble imagining that someone at Apple may finally have glanced at a market research report and noticed that the vast majority of the computer-buying public isn't crazy about small keyboards and tiny round mice, thus prompting the development of what will hopefully be more ergonomically-friendly replacements to what MacAddict once referred to as "Crampy and the Puck."...

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