Posted by: nickgerlich | October 17, 2007

Mac Attack

There was a time many years ago when the word Apple was associated with the Beatles. It was the record label on which they and a few other artists released their music, and that delightful Granny Smith apple on my turntable looked so tasty at 33 1/3 r.p.m.

But today Apple is more likely to be associated with iPods, iTunes, and Mac computers than it is British music. And the courts have agreed that Apple Computers can indeed use that familiar name and logo in its music sales.

Pass the icon, please, but hold the lawsuits.

With over 3 billion songs now sold at iTunes, and over 100 million iPods in circulation, Apple has finally found its market entree. Once relegated to the backwaters of computing and a handful of devoted Mac users, suddenly people are realizing that iPods are but the beginning of the product mix.

Apple StoreUnlike other computer makers, Apple also has its own stores. In fact, aside from a select few retailers, you have to go either to an Apple store or their website to buy a Mac. To their credit, Apple has turned the process of buying a Mac into an experience. And as the 49ers once said in California, there’s gold in them thar hills.

Apple’s 200th retail store will open later this month. Sales at their stores are enough to turn heads, with the vast majority falling into the $3.25 to $4.5 million range. And for those who have ventured into the white-on-white boutique of the Apple, you know all too well what an experience it can be.

Apple is not known for over-merchandising. They have about a half-dozen models each of desktops and MacBooks, along with the line of iPods, the iPhone, and a few peripherals. That’s it. The store is very hands-on (I always use their stores to check my email and my classes). In fact, Apple ants you to take their computers out for a test drive.

The oh-so-trendy workers all wear black t-shirts with a snappy Apple slogan on them, along with blue tooth devices to further cement their “applitude.” Piercings, tattoos, and interesting hair styles are the order of the day among workers and customers; I, an Alex P. Keaton prototype of the 80s, look like a Reaganite at an early campaign rally for Nancy Pelosi.

But that’s OK, as the Apple folk are geared up to handle the converts (computers, not politics). I bought my iMac in Vegas last February, and now am dragging my kids onto the Apple cart with me by purchasing an entry-level MacBook for them.

How big is this Apple? It all depends on your perspective. In an industry fragmented with many manufacturers, Apple now ranks third overall. Their share of the laptop market is 17.6%, while their total share of all computers sold is 5.9%.

The Apple Store is without doubt my kids’ favorite store in Las Vegas. They love the short table set up just for them, so they can take a computer out for a ride just like Mom and Dad. They feel perfectly at home with the intuitive fatures of a Mac. I am not going to tell them the differences between the Mac and their PC at home, because I’m sure they will figure it out on their own.

My only regret is that I am so firmly entrenched in a PC world. It’s hard to shift gears when you have been in Windows Overdrive for so long. But I do know this: Michael Dell had better wake up and smell those apples. Selling through Wal-Mart may have given him greater distribution, but I don’t see people flocking to Wal-Mart to talk computers.

I do, however, see this excitement every time I step inside the Apple store. It must be music in Steve Jobs’ ears.

Dr “Tigers and Leopards Rule” Gerlich

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