PermaLink The new Apple store05/22/2006 02:14 PM

In which our hero visits the new Fifth Avenue Apple Store.
For the hell of it, I went to New York on Saturday.  Yes, there were social events involved, but as part of the adventures, I had to go see the new Apple Store in midtown Manhattan.  If you haven't heard about this, it's quite spectacular.

Apple has has an Apple Store in Soho for a number of years now, and a couple of years ago when I was taking a video editing class down there, I stopped in.  Nice place and all, but nothing like the new one they just opened Friday evening at Fifth Avenue and 58th Street.  It's not, to my eyes, coincidental that the new Apple Store is in the same complex as FAO Schwarz, the toy store, and across the street from Van Cleef & Arpels and Bergdorf Goodman, and just up from Tiffany & Co.  However, none of these are open 24 hours a day, though maybe they should be.

The visible portion of the store is a giant glass cube, probably 60 feet on a side, rising up out of the plaza in front of the existing building.  A large lit Apple logo is on the cube, but no other signage exists.  You walk up to the cube, and you can see down into the store itself, which is one level below ground and much, much larger in floorspace than the cube that rises above.  In the cube is a cylindrical glass elevator and a translucent glass spiral staircase that winds down around it.  More about that later.

I walked down the stairs (which is actually faster than the elevator) and the showroom is oblong, large and symmetrical, laid out in four large quadrants.  At either end are two similar-looking counter areas, one housing the checkouts and the other, the Apple Genius Bar where you can ask questions about Apple stuff.  Each quadrant is devoted to specific products... in one, the new portables, like the newly-introduced MacBook (the Intel-based replacement for the iBook) and the MacBook Pro.  In another, the desktop machines and kids' software, though honestly, I didn't see anything but the new Intel-based iMacs.  No G5 towers were to be seen, which puzzled me.   The other two quadrants were jammed with iPods and iPod stuff

Even at midnight on a Saturday, the place was quite busy, though nowhere near as jammed as it apparently was at the opening on Friday night.  This being midtown, there were actually people there who looked like they'd just left Carnegie Hall a few blocks away and... come to the Apple Store.  So, in addition to the usual assortment of fanny-pack-wearing Apple geeks, there were guys in tuxes and women in black dresses, heels and diamonds.  This is where I am not so sure about the logic behind the glass stairs and glass elevator, since it seemed like women in skirts might be a little... overexposed in such a situation.  Then again, I didn't notice any titillated geeks hanging out underneath the elevator, so maybe it's not an issue.

Still, it was an odd mix of people at midnight on a Saturday.  Tourists from all over the world, New Yorkers in their theatre attire, and me.

I tried out the new MacBook.  The keyboard seems extremely odd to me.  Gone is the sculpted keyboard of the iBook and Powerbook, replaced by something that for all the world reminds me of the ancient Radio Shack Color Computer.  Square, flat-topped keys with gaps between them.  The touch seemed quite strange.  I'm not sure I could get used to it.  Different still is that the keyboard is not removable, as on the iBook.  Apparently the MacBook is much easier to upgrade -- both memory and hard drive, but I guess if you're going to do it, you won't do it the same way you did on the iBook, which was to pop the keyboard up and get at the RAM that way.

If the hard drive is easier to get at, that would be an enormous improvement, since I practically had to demolish my iBook G4 to get a new drive into it.  Compare and contrast the three minutes it took me to upgrade the drive in either a Toshiba or a Dell laptop.  If the MacBook is easier, great.  It's about damn time.

Another thing is, there's no longer an option for a 12" or a 14" screen.  All MacBooks are 13.3" only.  I am so used to the 14" screen on my iBooks that the 13.3" does in fact seem smaller, though of course it's sharp and bright.  You wouldn't think a small size difference like that is noticeable, but for me, it most certainly is.  The MacBooks come with the now-ubiquitous iSight camera built in.  Having used this on my MacBook Pro, I can say that it's far less useful than it could be, for two reasons:  one, it can't be steered left or right, and pans up and down only when you adjust the angle of the screen, which means it's pretty much only a videoconferencing-style webcam.  Two, its support outside iChat is nonexistent, and iChat doesn't really support anything by iChat and AIM, though through Jabber, it apparently possible to talk to MSN and Yahoo, though... no support for video!

I ended up buying an update to Logic Express so that I can use my MacBook Pro to do my podcasts (yes, I'm planning another podcast episode soon), as well as an Elgato EyeTV 250, so I can turn my old "dome" iMac G4 into a Tivo.  Like I watch that much television.

I have to say, the Apple Store in Soho was more comfortable.  The one on Fifth is rather barren-looking... only one place to sit down, and that's a sort of concrete wall around the base of the elevator which will suck all the heat out of your ass if you let it.  This was probably a conscious choice on Apple's part, so that perverted geeks don't spend all afternoon under the glass stairs checking out theatregoing women's butts.

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