Keith Combs' Blahg

Ramblings from another nerd on the grid

My visit to an Apple store

My visit to an Apple store

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AppleAfter dinner yesterday evening, we swung by the new swanky Apple store in my neighborhood.  It was an interesting experience.  We used to have an Apple store when they first built the Southlake Town Square complex (Phase I).  However, that store didn’t make it.  It was also right before the iPod revolution.  Well, they are back.

The Good

I liked the store layout.  Just like the machines, everything was clean and modern.  As I walked in the door, I was greeted by 4–5 employees congregated in the front door area. 

As I scanned the room, I saw the first set of machines I wanted to look at.  They had an entire island of 15.4” MacBook Pro laptops.  Ooo la la.  I messed around with one for about 5–7 minutes and someone finally asked me if I had any questions.  I did of course and we’ll get to that. 

MacBook ProI picked up one of the machines to see how heavy it felt.  It’s a lot lighter than my current laptop.  The case is smooth and beautiful.  The screen was plenty bright even in the brightly lit store.  I’m used to running my laptop at 1400x1050 so the 1440x900 resolution looked natural to me.  I played around in OS X to get a feel for the performance.  It performed very nicely.  I didn’t see any decent game loaded on the exhibit machines so I had no time to see how it handled something like Half Life 2.  I did play some videos, worked with the picture viewer, and compared it to Windows Vista (in my mind).  The MagSafe power connector should become an industry standard. 

In the back of the store, they were having a class on business blogcasting.  Very very kewl. 

Oh, I almost forgot (and the reason for this update), there was a kids section right next to the public class section in the back.  I watched a youngster playing a game on the iMac (I think it was an iMac) while Mom or Dad learned to blogcast.  Now that was a very very good idea.

I kept circling the store clockwise and arrived at my preferred destination.  The Mac Mini.  I agree, small is beautiful.  I spent some time playing around on one.  Really decent performance in a small package.  I don’t really need a laptop but would love to have one of these.  $599, I’ll take it. Then it dawned on me…  What was I running?

 

The Not So Good

I moved next to look at the display of displays.  Gotta love those 23” and 30” Cinema displays.  As with the other products, excellent fit and finish.  However, and this is where it starts to get into the not so good, what’s up with the price?  The Apple 23” Cinema is $1299.  Dell had their 24” widescreen on sale this week for $639.  The Apple 30” is $2499.  Are they worth it?  You tell me.

On the not so good note, the employees I did talk to weren’t very knowledgeable about the products.  They couldn’t or wouldn’t articulate the value of OS X on the new laptops versus the G4.  They couldn’t really tell me which was faster.  I asked how difficult it is to move from the Windows world to the Mac hardware and software… blank stare. 

iPodThey looked bored.  They actually said that to me on my way into the store.  Bored?  With the goodies in this store?  How is that possible exactly?  My daughter and her boyfriend were having a blast with the camera and some photo booth software.  They were laughing and showing me their art.  The employees looked annoyed that they were having fun.

I then arrived at the iPod section.  I have often considered buying one.  Not just any iPod, the most expensive iPod on the planet.  The 60gig video iPod.  There’s just one or two problems.  First, the iPod needs to knock the current small form factor video king off the block.  Sorry, I like my Sony PSP better for playing video.  I wish the PSP had a 60gig drive, but I’ll take the screen over the drive any time.  Second, price.  Please reduce it.

I also asked one of the employees how to transfer video to the iPod.  He said to use the Apple iTunes store to buy videos.  I said, but what about videos I have on my Mac?  He said, I don’t know.  Excuse me, but if you are a product rep for a product like the iPod, please go find out.  You might first check into other Apple products like QuickTime Pro (which I own).   

Regarding my comments on the Mac Mini, most if not all of the tags next to the display machines read $599.  I turned a couple of the cute little boxes over and they were the $799 dual core versions.  Grrrrrrrrr.

All in all, it was a worth while trip.  I got to spend about 35 minutes touching the various products.  The common theme for me was price on most of the products.  The MacBook Pro 2.0GHz Duo, 2gig RAM, 100gig 7200rpm drive laptop goes for $2899 from the online Apple store.  The Lenovo ThinkPad T60 similarly equipped is about the same price.  The Dell Latitude D820 is currently discounted several hundred dollars below. 

There’s no doubt Apple has some kewl products.  I looks like they’ve priced the MacBook Pro very competitively.  Go touch.  Go feel.  It will be interesting to see how they do. 

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  • RE:The Not So Good

    What exactly were you expecting with regards to the employees knowledge of the inner workings?

    Last time I checked, Apple prides itself on never having to know what is on the inside. If it breaks, bring it back and we'll fix it for you aka we'll stick a floppy disc in it and the software will diagnose it for us.

  • A floppy disc??? LOL Apple haven't had floppies in Macs for about 5-6 years. And the guys at the Genius Bar's are Apple Certified to know about the inner workings, they repair them. Nice try FUD-mongerer!

  • Well, I didn't ask any inner workings questions.  I asked if they could give me a description of the speed difference between the new MacBook Pro and the G4 laptop.  I asked if OS X was better on the G4 or the MacBook Pro.  I asked what to expect from a Windows migration to a MacBook Pro laptop.  I asked about transferring video to the iPod.  Pretty simple questions I thought.

    I didn't ask about the MacBook Pro ExpressCard 34 PCIe bus throughput, or if they have a compatible ExpressCard eSATA card, or when to expect a HD TV Tuner, or how fast does Virtual PC for the MAC run VM's...

    I asked simple stuff.

    This was an isolated visit to a new store on one part of the planet and I'm sure the level of expertise varies greatly.  I'm also sure some of the employees were part timers and just need a job.  It's a kewl place to have a job for sure.  

    I am not trying to say all store visits will be similar.  I certainly hope not.

  • I opened the AppleStore in Plano back in 2001, it was the third AppleStore to open. To prepare the employees for the standards Apple expected, full-time employees went through one or two weeks of product and sales training. Even the part-timers (which I was one) received two full weekends (Sat & Sun) of the same training condensed. We had to learn everything from product info to how to address a customer to how to deal with shoplifting to ADA issues. It was very robust. We also had Conflict Resolution sessions to smooth things over behind the scenes. I noticed that as time wore on we "forgot" most of the strict training, and today I don't see any of those practices used in the AppleStore anywhere. But there is no excuse for bad product knowlege in a computer store - just because it's in a mall doesn't mean it's Baby Gap!

    Couple of things of interest to Keith's readers in a Mac topic: running Virtual PC has long been the best (and only) way to run Windows on a Mac. You probably heard about Apple's new Boot Camp, but even more significant is the new virtualization app from Parallels (www.parallels.com). It takes advantage of the virtualization hardware built into the Intel Core processors (PC or Mac), and runs Windows (or any PC-based OS) at 90% of machine speed!! I've been using the beta on my Intel iMac for 30 days and it smokes. I've tried to test it on PCs running on the new Core processors, but haven't had enough time to really try it out. But if you need to run Windows on a Mac or PC (for demos, testing, etc...), Parallels is the lead dog in the pack (right now). I use a LOT of virtual technology in my job, and this new Intel hardware combined with this new software changes the game for me (although the political issues behind it are another issue for those of you who know me!).

    Thanks for the assessment, Keith! -e

  • I think it's more telling that they teach classes right in the store.  What better way to make sure people can use their computer than to teach them right there in the store.  Yes, others like CompUSA do this too, but they're just not as friendly as Apple Stores and they're more geared towards the commercial markets.  It just continues to lend to the idea that Macs are user friendly.

    By the way, webcasts wouldn't work here...someone needs to teach the basics.  It does no good if the new user doesn't know how to turn it on!

  • I've heard a lot of reports about Apple store staff not being up-to scratch.

    To answer your questions. The MacBook Pro outperforms the PowerBook significantly, but only with programs that are Universal Binaries or Intel native. PowerPC compiled apps run in an environment called Rosetta, which translates the instructions and therefore can be slower. Most apps are quickly becoming Universal Binaries, but large programs like Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop aren't scheduled until 2007.

    You can just drag your movies into iTunes and they will then be available on the iPod (as long as it's a compatible format - don't use DivX etc). Also they'll be available in Front Row, through iTunes (but also from your Movies folder)

    Matt