Apple - Doing Something Very Right
Over the last couple of months, people around me have heard me say "a
human should NEVER have to wait for a computer."
I consider myself a highly mobile personal computer power-user who beats
on a laptop several hours every day. Looking over my shoulder, you will
typically see several applications open (Outlook, Internet Explorer,
Word, Excel, PowerPoint, MS Project and MS Money, at a minimum). When
acquiring a new laptop (every 2+/- years), I always jack-in as much
horsepower (memory and CPU) in as small a unit as possible. To keep the
machine clean and secure, I fanatically ensure my anti-virus is
up-to-date, perform frequent scans, run Ccleaner (previously called
"crap cleaner") to rid the machine of debris left behind, and
occasionally defragment my hard-drive. Recently, I still found myself
waiting for the computer. Since time is money, this drives me absolutely
Then, picture this: Sitting next to me at the kitchen counter are my two
oldest sons with MacBooks. When they open the lids, the machines are
simply on. Always. No waiting to "resume from hibernation." Not sure
that they have ever needed to do a reboot. And, if ever a program gets
hung up (a rare exception), they simply do a "Force Quit" and it stops –
IMMEDIATELY. And, they can resume what they were doing. There is no need
to acquire anti-virus software or wait for anti-virus updates and scans.
They have found great joy in ribbing me as they observe my frustration
resulting from my machine again being hung-up, bogged down updating
anti-virus, or "not responding," forcing me to once again kill that
run-away process that was sucking up 99% of my CPU.
When I finally got fed up one morning waiting for my windows-based
laptop and decided to explore my options (could a Mac really work for
me?), I went online to look for an Apple retail outlet. I could have
gone to Best Buy, which is less than 5 miles away, but I wanted to speak
with an expert on Macs whom I could put through the ringer with my many
questions related to how a "business" power-user could effectively
convert from a windows-based machine to a Mac.
I found that the closest Apple store was about 25 minutes away. Then, I
learned that you could make an appointment for a "personal shopping
experience." That is interesting; an appointment to shop at a retail
establishment (in a mall)! I scheduled an 11am appointment via their
Upon arrival, I quickly realized why it was important to make an
appointment. The place was packed! I was greeted by an extremely
pleasant young man (in a bright orange t-shirt with the Apple logo) who
asked how he could help me. When I replied that I had an 11am
appointment for a personal shopping experience, he confirmed the
appointment on his handheld device and immediately directed me to a
person (in an orange shirt), near the rear of the store, who would help
me. Navigating my way through the store, I easily found the correct
employee. He was expecting me and said "Ara will be working with you,
and will be with you in just a moment." Within 30 seconds, a guy in a
bright blue t-shirt came from behind the counter, grabbed a sign on a
pedestal which read "personal shopping experience" and walked towards
me, introducing himself.
Before I go any further, I want to share that EVERY employee that I
spoke to in the Apple store, and most others that were working there,
was in his 20's to early 30's. Most had earrings; one had an awesome
looking mo-hawk (his hair was spiked at least 12 inches high). And, you
could tell that they were proud to be there and VERY happy to help. I'm
So far so good...Can this really be?
I explained my situation to Ara. He promptly walked me to a table which
had the MacBook Pro that he felt would be a good starting point for my
"evaluation." I'd consider it more of a grilling, with my round of
questions. As a technically advanced user, I had some pretty tough
questions. My primary constraint to switching was that it must be
TOTALLY transparent to others whom I work with. Ara was able to answer
"almost" every question to my satisfaction. For those that he couldn't
answer, he replied "I will get you an answer to that when we are done."
Which he did. I was sold.
After identifying a few needed accessories, Ara explained that they
offer a one-to-one support program that would be helpful to ensure a
quick migration from Windows to the Mac. The program allows me to
schedule an unlimited number of one-on-one sessions with a Mac guru, for
an entire year. Sounded like the right plan to get me jump started.
To complete the order, Ara indicated that they would need about 30
minutes to install the additional memory that I requested. And, that if
I wanted to get some lunch, it would be ready when I returned. So, I
checked out, got some lunch and came back in about 30 minutes. They were
ready. Done, in the time specified. No wait.
With my new toy (I mean business tool) in-hand, I couldn't wait to
return to my office to get started. If you have an iPod, you probably
remember opening the box. Once you get your device out, you question
whether you should throw away or save the box; it is that nice. Well,
the same experience happened for me when I opened the box to my Mac. It
is presented to you like a fine piece of jewelry. There is NOTHING left
to chance here.
Now, the conversion...To be fair, I will say that the first week of my
"conversion" was painful, primarily because I was straddling two
environments (Windows and Mac) as I migrated my world piece by piece.
Partway through the process, I realized that I needed to schedule some
"one-to-one" time with a Mac guru. So, I went online and scheduled an
appointment at the Apple store. I won't go through the greeting process
again (it was the same great experience).
Mark introduced himself and indicated that he would be working with me
today. He escorted me to a table which had a MacBook that he would be
working from and space for me to crack open mine. He asked how he could
help. I went through a number of questions and he nailed every one,
masterfully. They ranged from the complex (how can I run an application
that my customer uses, which appears to ONLY operate in the Windows
environment?) to the simple (where the heck is the backspace key?). One
of the most interesting comments that he made related to the latest
version of the operating system (Snow Leopard). He mentioned that "We
listened to the feedback received from our customers and
addressed many of the features and concerns in this latest release."
Note the "We listened..." He feels ownership in this! When have you
heard ANYONE represent Microsoft in such a way? Instead, we hear
technical support people and retail staff (selling Windows-based
machines) constantly bad-mouthing the environment which is positioned as
something that we (supposedly) must simply live with. Wrong!
With two minutes left in my appointment, Mark politely said "with only a
couple of minutes remaining, do you have any other questions or is there
anything that I could recap for you?"
Again, I need to repeat..."Most" of the people representing Apple
(extremely well, I might add) are earring-clad 20/30-somethings. This is
HUGE. EVERY one has been extremely polite, proud to work there, and on a
mission. That mission is to make the world a better place, where people
don't have to wait for computers.
Recently my dad sent me an email with a link to an article covering
Apple's latest earnings and stock price. He said "They must be doing
something very right." It is not just about the devices that they sell
(which are flawless). It is about the entire experience. There are still
a few Windows-based machines remaining in my home. I'm excited about
replacing them for a couple of reasons, the first of which is to
eliminate the time I currently spend as the on-call technical support
person in the Bailey household. I want to be like the Maytag repair man.
And I'm anticipating the thrill of going into the Apple store for
another great experience.
But, this goes beyond just a positive experience for the consumer. The
experience generates huge amounts of business for Apple. A recent
NY Times article about Disney's new retail concept specifically
mentioned performance of Apple stores vs. other retailers. Steve Jobs is
on the Disney board and reportedly provided a lot of input from their
experience launching the Apple store. As quoted in the article:
"...Apple is king of the mall. Its fleet of stores generated sales of
about $4,700 a square foot in 2008, by far the highest for any retail
chain, said Charlie Wolf, an analyst at Needham & Company. In
comparison, Best Buy's sales are about $1,000 a square foot."
In closing, betting against a behemoth like Microsoft, with the
pervasiveness of its installed base, may be a long shot. So, I'm not
sure I'm ready to sell their stock. Perhaps Windows 7 (now available)
will improve the situation. Good luck with that. There is a better way.
Apple – Keep doing what you are doing!
+ Apple - Doing Something Very Right
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