Lessons at the Apple store

Lessons at the Apple store.

I spent nearly three hours with Steve Sloan today. He's one of those guys who helps run one of Silicon Valley's biggest educational enterprises (San Jose State University).

We visited the Apple store for a while (I saw two Macs sold, both of which were purchased with Microsoft's Virtual PC, and Microsoft's Office for the Mac. Reminds me of the time when I caught Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak loading Windows 2000 on his Mac.

One other thing: a couple had purchased an iPod and brought in their Dell computer to make sure it worked well with it. The Apple staff at the Genius bar efficiently helped them load their system up and get it running. That was awesome. Nary a negative word about Microsoft (although another employee did a good job of positioning the Mac against Windows when asked about what makes a Mac better than an IBM machine).

Other things I noticed about the store: the aesthetics. The design. Let's start with the floor. It was large slats of unvarnished wood. Why is that important? Because computers tend to be cold. I'm sure that Steve Jobs and his crew spent a bit of time thinking about the floor. Wood is easy to clean, if someone spills. It wears well. It doesn't feel as hard on your feet, as say, slate. Plus, most people spend a lot of time staring at the floor. Might as well make sure that experience feels good.

Up from the floor (plenty of room to walk around, by the way, even on a crowded day after Christmas) you'll notice black wood shelves. Neatly arranged with software (almost all with the fronts of their boxes showing). Each shelf looked like a picture frame. The software was in the middle of the store. That's a big deal. Apple, in effect, was telling its customers “the Mac is about software.”

I'm getting ahead of myself, the Window outside had a very neat and clean display of PowerBooks and iBooks with a sign that said something like “someone you know would like a notebook.”


I could go on.

Why is a Microsoft employee who's tasked with evangelizing Longhorn talking about an Apple store? Easy. Apple sold two copies of Windows while I was standing there in the store. I can just imagine that a lot of you will buy Longhorn in an Apple store in the future.

And, even if that never happens, Microsoft (and me) can learn a thing or two by going into an Apple store. Aesthetics matter. Enabling scenarios (music, photos, and video) matters. Design matters. Service matters. Presentation matters. Culture matters. Community matters.

What do you learn when you look at what your competitors are doing? Do you do anything about it?  [The Scobleizer Weblog]

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