Apple’s retail stores are well-known for their clean layout, product-first mentality, and obsequious staff. Though they stock things like iPod cases, printers, and so on, the focus has always been on Apple’s devices, and may soon be even more so, as it appears a fair amount of software and peripherals will be taken off the shelves to make room for more Mac-focused space. It’s an interesting indicator of the Apple ecosystem endgame.
After all, Apple is positioning itself as not just a maker of quality computing goods, but the gatekeeper and distributor for everything you purchase, be it media, software, or accessory — even in the “real world.” The iPad is a magic window into an Apple-controlled marketplace; why shouldn’t Apple stores be the same way?
According to The Loop, most games being sold at the Apple Store will no longer be available there, or at least not on shelves. Ditto printers, hard drives, scanners, and potentially any other low-volume sales that are likely to be made online anyway. Many of the devices will be available to buy at the store, just not stacked on shelves and hung from pegs for the customer to grab. In a way, it makes accessory buying like the App Store. Click with your finger on the hard drive “icon” in the accessory case, and a dozen employees will scramble to retrieve it from the back.
The vanishing point for this philosophy is essentially an iPad that sells iPads.
Apple’s certainly in a unique in its position of power; it would be impossible for Microsoft or HP to do something like this. The supreme control Apple has over its software and hardware contributors added to the extremely strong, device-first branding make the Apple store a natural place to show off the next generation of electronics retail. I have problems with the stranglehold they exert on their ecosystem, but I can’t deny its effectiveness and wisdom given the limitations of retail. It’s one of those things they got right early on, and has only been refined since then — a rather different story than some Apple productions I could mention.
Of course it’s not newsworthy every time Apple tweaks the layout of their stores, but I thought this particular move to be portentous.