A Comfortable Computer Store?

I finally got to visit one of Apple’s new stores, specifically the Apple Store in the Short Hills Mall in New Jersey.

It was like walking into a little slice of heaven. Dual-processor G4s with beautiful (and ungodly expensive) 22-inch flat screen monitors lined one mall. The new lamp-like iMacs lined another wall and proved to be far more impressive in person than on television. They were just so … touchable. And when have you ever heard anyone say that about a computer?

Unlike other computer stores I’ve been in, this one embraced kids. Heck, there was actually a section dedicated to rugrats, complete with eMacs (or maybe they were the old iMacs — I didn’t look that closely). The kids climbed over each other, the computers, the floor — they were clearly having a blast. As a dad-to-be, that sight really appealed to me. At the back of the store, the folks at the “Genius Bar” successfully answered a question about networking Apple’s wireless hub, Airport, to my Windows PC network so that Sue can surf on the coach using our Apple iBook computer.

More than anything else the store was comfortable. Sales people didn’t try and wring a commission out of me as soon as I entered the store, and I was able to browse the computers at my leisure. It was just so … relaxing. Easy-going. Enjoyable. These are not words I would normally associate with a computer store.

Were there flaws? Yes. Perhaps it was the recent upgrade to Jaguar (the newest version of Apple’s operating system, OS 10.2), but it seemed like half of the machines in the store weren’t available for experimentation. And for some reason, every computer I tried to launch Sherlock on (an Internet search tool/utility for the Mac) seemed to take too long to access the net. Was there a problem with the store network? I didn’t get a chance to find out because my wife was clearly interested in moving on to more exciting destinations involving shoes and/or maternity clothes.

Right now I’m agonizing over my next home computer purchase. I’ve been a dual user for a while – I’ve got a PC and an iMac on my desk at work and I use them both regularly in my job as university webmaster. I switched to a Mac laptop at home because it was affordable (yes, I’m talking about a Mac, and yes, the iBook is affordable) and because I enjoyed my iMac so much.

But making a Mac my primary computer at home? That’s a big step. It means giving up the most recent computer games (the popular ones make it to the Mac, but there’s almost always a delay). It also means giving up a percentage of my freelance income that comes from reviewing PC games. But the Mac is so nice, so simple, so graceful… it’s hard not to be tempted by this particular Apple.

The temptation is all that more harder to resist after having been to the Apple Store. This is, of course, Apple’s hope – that being so completely immersed in Macdom will sway PC users over to the Light side of the Force. It’s still too early for me to say, but their plan might just work. They might just make me into a full-blooded Switcher.

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