At a press event this morning in downtown San Francisco, Angela Ahrendts introduced Apple‚Äôs new Union Square store.
The outlet, which has been in the works for over two years, is shimmery and new in the way we have come to expect from Apple stores: Huge glass doors, open areas, simple and vibrant colors. But this one is truly brand new. It’s the kind of huge leap forward Steve Jobs loved to see‚Äîeven if this one remakes the retail blueprint he and Ron Johnson established over a decade ago. Apple is one of those companies that believes that everything that touches the consumer represents the company. So the design of this new store isn‚Äôt just a design: It‚Äôs a statement about the philosophy and ambitions of Tim Cook‚Äôs Apple.
First, the details. You can see pictures of the store all over Twitter. The Genius Bar has been transformed into an environmental workspace under, as the Apple press release puts it, a “comfortable canopy of local trees.” There‚Äôs a boardroom where a team of business geniuses will school local entrepreneurs and shop owners on the ways Apple products can improve efficiency. There‚Äôs an agora that will function as something of an education center and help Apple aficionados better exploit their creative passions. What Apple calls “The Plaza” will serve as a 24-hour-a-day gathering place, home to a variety of events, including concerts and lectures.
Here are four things we can glean from the Union Square Store:
Innovation is hardly dead at Apple: Critics carp that Apple hasn‚Äôt introduced anything breathtakingly new since the iPad. Fair enough‚Äîmany still consider the Watch a disappointment.
But the critics are missing a central fact about Apple: It is one of the few companies that continues to relentlessly innovate on existing, highly successful lines of business. Apple‚Äôs retail stores are the most successful in the world. Many CEOs would say, Why mess around with that? Not Tim Cook. He brought in Angela Ahrendts, who made more money than he did last year, and gave her the time and space to give the stores a serious makeover for the modern Apple.
Apple is an experience: Apple always says it is not just selling devices; it is selling an “experience.” That experience has grown bigger and bigger over the years. In Steve Jobs’s‚Äô heyday, the experience was first a device with seamless software and hardware, both made by Apple. (Other computer manufacturers wrapped their hardware around Microsoft’s operating system.) Then the experience became the collection of those devices‚ÄîiPad, iPhone, Mac‚Äîwirelessly connected to each other and the world.