Apple Has Big Surprises…In Store

By May 18, 2011Apple, news

How is Apple planning to celebrate the 10th anniversary of its retail stores?

As you probably have already heard too many times by now, tomorrow marks the 10th anniversary of the opening of the first Apple Store in Tyson’s Corner, Va. Apparently Apple is planning something pretty big to commemorate it.

I’m getting reports from Cringesters that Apple has blacked out the windows in its stores and is conducting intensive two-day training sessions for store employees. According to The Boy Genius Report, Apple has confiscated employee cellphones, forced them to sign NDAs, and told them they’d better be prepared to work throughout the weekend.

So what in Jobs’s name is Apple planning? Naturally the blogosphere is agog with theories.

One is that Apple plans to introduce the iPhone 5 (or iPhone 4S, depending on which source of unconfirmed rumormongering you most trust). Another rumor is that Apple is installing near-field communications point-of-sale terminals in every store, allowing customers to buy new iPhones by waving their old ones at it. A third theory is that Apple will use this occasion to unveil its rumored “iCloud” streaming media service.

Meanwhile, the party poopers over at Wired say Apple isn’t planning any new product releases at all — nothing to see here, please move along.

Back in 2001 probably nobody outside Apple’s C-level suite thought we’d see this day. CNN’s Doug Gross points out that most people thought Jobs was off his Zen rocker when he decided to go into the high-overhead/low-margin retail business. Remember, this was at the same time that Gateway had decided to shut down all its Gateway Country stores.

Here’s Businessweek’s Cliff Edwards quoting folks in 2001 who now look extremely stupid in hindsight:

The way Jobs sees it, the stores look to be a sure thing…[But] his perfectionist attention to aesthetics has resulted in beautiful but pricey products with limited appeal outside the faithful: Apple’s market share is a measly 2.8%. … “I give them two years before they’re turning out the lights on a very painful and expensive mistake,” says David A. Goldstein, president of researcher Channel Marketing Corp.

As usual, most people were wrong and Jobs was right. There are now more than 300 Apple Stores, and to the Apple faithful they’re more like shrines. I must doff my fedora to Jobs for proving the unbelievers wrong, and to the Apple Store employees who are giving up their weekends for something, whatever it turns out to be.