The Joys of Apple News Coverage

Monday, 2007-05-28; 13:25:00

So you know how the brick-and-mortar Apple Stores are supposedly doing really well and attracting lots of customers and are in general a fun place to hang out? Well, according to Philip Elmer-DeWitt over at "Business 2.0 Beta", that's not the case. Witness his article entitled, "The Apple Store: Trouble in Paradise."

(Yes, this weblog is actually called "Business 2.0 Beta". It's like the magical words "2.0" and "beta" will automatically triple your readership. Too bad it doesn't triple the intelligence of the author's writing.)

Just from the title you get an ominous sense of foreboding. He begins his artistic masterpiece by ushering the reader into a nice sense of complacency:

Randall Stross's love song to the Apple (AAPL) Store in today New York Times (Apple's Lessons for Sony's Stores) will ring true to anyone who has spent any time in the company's retail outlets, playing with the toys, dealing with the uniformly helpful staff, falling in love with a piece of well-designed technology. (Money quote: “People can just walk in, absorb the fumes and feel like the smartest technophile in the world.”)

Yep, start off by fawning all over the Apple stores. Because, you know, telling your readers (who most likely have already visited an Apple Store given that they're reading some weblog entitled "Business 2.0 Beta") how there's trouble at the Apple stores right off the bat is obviously a bad move. 'cause, of course, some guy writing in some weblog is going to be so much more well-informed about the Apple stores than people who have actually, you know, visited one.

[OBVIOUS UNNEEDED DISCLAIMER: Yes, I have visited an Apple store. No, I do not know whether Elmer-DeWitt has visited one or not. Nor do I really give a damn.]

He continues:

Stross reminded me of something I'd forgotten: that when Apple first announced that they getting into the retail game -- at a time when most computer stores were bleeding money -- analysts predicted they'd be shutting down the stores and writing off huge losses within two years.

Oh, some more quality build-up to the climax. First he talks about how great the Apple stores are, then he tells you how everyone predicted they would fail, and how they were wrong. And then, *dun dun dun* Elmer-DeWitt is going to tell you how they are going to fail!



But what Stross left out of his piece were the first signs this week like anything that's good and fun and connected to the Internet, Apple stores are ripe for abuse.

[Jon Stewart voice]Go onnnn![/Jon Stewart voice]

I don't mean the horde of zombies that descended on the flagship San Francisco store on Friday and started chewing on the monitors (I'm not making this up; see here).


What was more significant -- and perhaps a harbinger of things to come -- was Apple's acknowledgment that they've had to modify their open door policy and start clamping down on customers who take advantage of all that free access to snazzy technology.

Oh for fuck's sake. You're halfway through your weblog post. Can you get to the point already?

As Caroline McCarthy reported in CNET's Crave yesterday, Apple had already started to restrict customer access before the MySpace incident made headlines. Many Apple stores voluntarily set up "mild" filters on their Web browsers to keep customers from cruising the porn sites. Others set up demo computers to play only promo material or allow only access to websites Apple had bookmarked.

So... let's see. Apple blocks access to porn. Now all those porn junkies that regularly flock in masses to the Apple stores doing... well... whatever they are doing, are going to stop showing up. Darn.

But what was really driving Apple nuts were the MySpace junkies.
"MySpace is a big issue for the Apple stores because people come in, Photobooth themselves (using Macs' built-in webcams), then stick their picture up on their MySpace account and loiter at machines for hours," one Apple store employee told McCarthy. "It is especially troublesome at the flagships and high-volume stores, and for a while there was no official word on how to deal with it."


That's it? You're seriously telling me that the Apple stores are going to stop being so successful ("perhaps a harbinger of things to come") because they blocked one of the most idiotic, tasteless, useless wastes of bandwidth of a website ever to come into creation?

THEY BLOCKED MYSPACE!!!1111!!!111oneone11eleven11!!!11

The bottom line was that the people drawn like flies to Steve Jobs' magical elixer [sic] were getting in the way of business. And if you think things are bad now, wait until the iPhone shows up.

Ohhhh yes. He not only invokes the "magical elixer [sic]" of Apple's products (hint: it's called "not being an annoying ass-sales worker and letting the customer explore your products on her own"), but he also drops the iPhone-bomb. Maybe with the word "iPhone" in the page, his Google ranking for "relevant technology writer" just might jump from page 500,000 to page 499,999.

Did anyone else notice how throughout his entire post, Elmer-DeWitt didn't even explicitly say what the "trouble in paradise" was? He hinted that it had to do with MySpace. Then he quoted an employee about what the trouble was with MySpace. And then he jumps to MySpace being "bad for business". But he doesn't actually tell you why or what Apple did.

BONUS: Take a look at how "Mark" in the comments would solve this problem:

The fast way to stop this is to require a $5 or $10 authorisation charge on a credit card when they step in. If they buy something, it's waived off their balance due. If they don't, they've just paid for using the Apple Internet Cafe.

I think I'll stifle a laugh and leave that one to stand on its own.

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