With the opening of its 32nd United States retail store, Apple, like a well-rendered 1998 Godzilla, has finally invaded New York. Located in the heart of the hip, trendy and amazingly pricey SoHo district (where serial-number-esque rent prices reportedly soar above $3,000 for a large efficiency with high ceilings), the new location blends perfectly with its neighbors, a minimalist black Apple sign separating it from the neighborhoodís other high-end retailers, such as Polo, Starbucks and Movado.
Enter the newest temple of Mac geekiness and prepare to be blown away. Once again, bleached wood floors combine with airy walkways between the storeís sections, carefully placed halogen lighting creating a relaxed but technological feel. The store has gone for a futuristic look with the somewhat skeletal new iMacs at the registers, ample sunlight that streams in through the high windows and glass interior structures.
Based out of an old New York post office and using two levels for its purposes, the location almost has a department store feel. Walk in and notice the amazing all-glass staircase which all but verbally calls you upstairs to see what you can find, even if it means leaving all the cool hardware toys for sale behind on the lower level. Meander upstairs, saunter across the all-glass miniature bridge and itís a gamerís dream come true.
Every game you could possibly imagine is there on the shelves, and even after foot traffic from thousands of visitors on the opening day, in ample supply. From mega-titles like WarCraft III (all four box designs standing by on multiple racks) to more obscure titles like Descent 3, the SoHo location holds what is undoubtedly the largest selection of Mac games Iíd ever seen in one place. Apple has gone far and beyond the required standard for games and even if you think youíve played and heard of everything, youíll still find titles you might not have heard of. Thereís something for everyone in this location, the selection of edutainment titles surpassing anything youíll find in a catalog. No matter what your machine specs are, an abundant supply of lower-end titles like Sin, Majesty and Hoyleís Solitaire collections prove that you donít need the fastest G4 on the block to run a title from the Soho Apple Store. Gaming hardware is also prevalent with a good selection of controllers and game pads. A catalog might feature a wider array of items, especially is youíre looking for a specialty item such as a USB racing wheel, but for the average user looking to get away from their keyboard and mouse, this should do the trick.
When I walked into the first Apple store over a year ago, my heart dropped a little as I looked over to the childrenís area, complete with iMacs and strange spherical seats on which to sit down. Part of me felt at home, wanting to try a few games while another part knew that I was too old and this was largely designed for the kids, thus I should wander off somewhere else. This has changed in the new SoHo location, both edutainment and more mature titles being displayed on several eMacs within the childrenís area. Sit back for a few minutes and customers of all shapes and sizes wander over to play, childrenís section or not. While Apple has never had an official ďgame testingĒ area, this seems to have filled the void and is settled into by any and all interested parties.
Unfortunately, this might be the only thing holding the new SoHo location and the Apple Store back a bit. Without a designated game demonstration area, users do tend to invade the childrenís section to play the games there. A few G4ís with various graphic card configurations (thereby allowing both ATI and nVidia to show their stuff) perhaps representing the Mac as the capable game platform itís always been may help. Add a machine or two, several current titles and let the machines sell themselves as gaming boxes, thereby solving the designated problem and utilizing the old technique of letting a device prove itself at something itís not universally known for as its selling point.
As well heeled hipsters and MacWorld Expo strays wandered through the store, carefully attended to by the not-too-pushy, ultra-cool-but-well-kempt staff, spirits seemed high and energetic. Users reveled in the selection, even if they winced a tiny bit at retail prices which arenít unique to the SoHo location. Even so, most people were happy to finally have an Apple Store in New York proper without the voyage to New Jersey or Connecticut, several shoppers commenting that they were fed up with J.R.ís Computer World and CompUSA when it came to Mac-specific shopping. From hardware to software to accessories to help books to training sessions, everythingís finally in one place with a focus on a platform thatís been kicked around in a city known for its stress, financial strength and tendency to opt for PCís as a means of staying current with the office and dominant market share.
With or without the presence of a large, scaly reptile behemoth, Apple has arrived in the big apple and earned their warm welcome, the underdog computer platform and its users finally having a tangible champion to their cause.