Technology giant Apple Inc. is all set to kick off the 10th anniversary of its retail stores celebration today and, going by past records, the scale of celebration will be anything but small.
Every year Apple celebrates the anniversary of its retail stores by offering some of the most appealing retail experiences in the world to customers such as allowing them to try out its devices, letting them check their emails, surf the Web and do much more in the locations.
However, sources close to the company said this year Apple will be celebrating the anniversary in a special way and the company has some big announcement in the pipeline. Though the company and its employees are rather tight-lipped about how Apple will party, rumors have already begun making rounds that the company could be launching a new product to commemorate the important day. What will be launched is, however, a billion dollar question.
Meanwhile, people familiar with Apple's retail operations claim the company will possibly enhance the retail experience of the customers, bringing it to the level Apple Store 2.0. It means total reinvention of the Apple retail environment, which already is closer to a fashion aesthetic than a tech aesthetic. In fact, most Apple stores, such as the flagship New York City store on Fifth Avenue, are even design symbols in themselves. The one on Fifth Avenue, open 24 hours a day, is a distinctive 32-foot glass cube.
According to 9to5Mac's source, Apple, which always takes personal setup service very seriously, will be launching a new area of the store called Startup Sessions, dedicated to helping people get up-and-running with their new devices. Apple is also apparently getting rid of its paper signage and replacing them with interactive iPad displays and in some select stores, even installing huge beefed up monitors and state-of-art sound systems.
As part of the plan, Apple wants to overhaul its retail operations and has reportedly already delivered iPad 2 in several of its stores with its proprietary in-house communications client known as RetailMe installed. Unfortunately, Apple is tightlipped on the issue and its employees have also been barred from speaking anything to the public about the company's plans, having been forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement with Apple. Reportedly, the employees will be undergoing a sales training on Saturday late at night or Sunday early morning and during that time they are prohibited from using their cell phones. Apple stores will also reportedly be enshrouded in black curtains while its employees get trained on new products, services, or policies so that customers cannot see what's going on inside.
However, reports have leaked out that RetailMe service offers information about products and training videos for retail employees. It was reported earlier this week that Apple stores have received hardware that employees are required to install but they will be under lock and key until Saturday night at close. The employees, reportedly, also have had to download gigabytes of password-protected data related to corporate training.
Boy Genius Report said Apple could also introduce near-field communication-based (NFC) point-of-sale system at its stores in the coming days in line with its 10th anniversary celebrations. NFC payment system facilitate e-wallet wireless transactions, something Apple has shown interest in for several years.
If iPad 2 comes with magnetic Smart Covers, in all possibility, the device will replace the current iPod Touch-based-based EasyPay terminal, which Apple stores switched to in 2009. According to AppleInsider, one will soon see Apple store employees toting iPads instead of iPod Touch. However, they won't be using the iPads in all scenarios, but will have them on hand for certain situations, such as to demonstrate a product, or make it help a customer authorize a payment.
Rumors that Apple's point-of-sale iPod Touch wireless payment terminals recently went offline for maintenance for an entire day, that Apple's retail stores received multiple overnight shipments of hardware and that in some Apple stores new tables have been installed that have different wiring compared to Apple's standard tables suggest Apple is all set to embrace a new payment system.
In conclusion, irrespective of whatever be Apple's plan, one thing is certain - an Apple Store reinvention is afoot. So don't be surprised if your neighborhood Apple Store looks more Prada-like than a Radio Shack from now on. After all, shopping at an Apple store is all about experiencing a new retail model and not just buying a product. A transcendental retail experience.