Stanley Bailey stopped by the new Apple Store in Towson Town Center last Saturday afternoon to investigate the possibility of buying a new Macintosh computer.
"I came over to see what they had and to play with their computers," Bailey, who appeared to be in his 60s, said as he manipulated an image with Adobe Photoshop 7.
He was working on a dual-processor QuickSilver G4 tower that was attached to one of
s 22-inch flat-screen Cinema Displays.
Bailey is the type of customer that Apple is trying to attract with its growing chain of stores: people who dont own a Mac but who want to learn more about them -- and then buy one.
Until now, Bailey said he has been using the computers at the Parkville Public Library. He was unimpressed with the Windows PCs.
"Macs are a hell of a lot easier," he said.
Tiring of the librarys 10 cent-per-page fee for printouts and feeling a need to have a machine for more than word processing soon had Bailey thinking about a Mac.
"I like Photoshop, [Adobe] Illustrator, iMovie," he said. "Im trying to catch up on some of this stuff."
Bailey said the only thing keeping him from buying a Mac was that he "wanted to be able to come back for support." He tried going to CompUSA Inc., which features a Macintosh section, but couldnt find anyone knowledgeable enough for his questions.
Apple, based in Cupertino, Calif., has designed its retail stores for customers like Bailey -- with plenty of hardware to ogle, plenty of Mac-savvy salespeople to talk it up -- the Towson store's staff totals about 20 -- and plenty of support during and after the sale.
"We want this to be the best place to explore, learn about and try out the Mac experience," said Allen Olivo, Apples senior director for retail. "And hopefully, youll buy one and take it home tonight."
Saturdays opening of the Towson store marked the arrival of Apples 41st retail outlet. Olivo said the company plans to have 50 by the end of the year.
But some may wonder why Apple is pushing a chain of retail stores. Clearly, Mac users dont need an Apple Store to buy Mac gear; you can find it in catalogs, at outlets like CompUSA -- and even from Apples online store.
Critics also point to the example of struggling PC maker
, which started on its chain of 300-plus stores in 1996, but has closed about as many stores over the past 18 months as Apple has opened.
Yet Apple has forged ahead, convinced that the need for physical locations to showcase its products outweighs any negative factors. According to Olivo, the goal of an Apple Store is to offer "a unique retail experience."
If the "Genius" is stumped, there's a hotline to an even more knowledgeable genius in California. You can even bring an ailing Mac to the Genius Bar for repairs.
If the fix is simple enough, Olivo said, you can have your Mac fixed while you wait.
Even PC owners are welcome at the Genius Bar. Olivo said they usually pose easier questions about the mechanics of switching -- for instance, where to get comparable software or how to transfer files from an old Windows machine to a new Macintosh.