Apple Store Revamp Adds iPad Product Displays [UPDATED]

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Miami Apple StoreApple proved the rumor mill right on Sunday when it introduced a new in-store product information system that uses iPads instead of the printed sheets the company has relied on since the first Apple Store opened ten years ago. The kiosk-style iPads use an interactive interface for showing product details, and also include an option for requesting a store employee for assistance.

The new iPad kiosks show product prices and features, and offer product comparisons along with the ability to request assistance, according to Mac Prices Australia.

Apple’s in-store staff worked late Saturday night prepping for the new iPad kiosk system. At Colorado’s Aspen Grove store, for example, the staff was still hard at work a little before 11PM and didn’t show any sign of wrapping up.

Aspen Grove Apple StoreEmployees worked late at the Aspen Grove Apple Store

The kiosks are attached to the display tables next to the product they describe, so the iPads can’t wander off and customers won’t have to worry about whether or not information is available when they try out the latest Apple gear.

iPad kioskApple’s new in-store iPad kiosk

iPad kiosk and MacBook AirEach display product includes its own interactive kiosk

iPad kiosk and iPhoneApple’s iPad kiosk for the iPhone

The in-store iPad system also includes features for staff so they can check inventory and request products from the store’s product storage area. Since the kiosks are updated centrally, employees don’t have to swap out signage, and customers won’t ever see displays that are worn out or tattered.

Each kiosk includes a special wire harness that sidesteps the iPad’s dock connector, and the Home button has been disabled so shoppers can’t exit the kiosk app. The kiosk software isn’t, however, bug-free yet. Two of the kiosks The Mac Observer checked out were malfunctioning: One was stuck showing the Contacts app, and another shut down and wouldn’t turn back on.

iPad kiosks for iPads. How meta!Yes, Apple is using iPad kiosks to sell iPads.

Personal Setup signApple’s new signage highlights services…

MacBook Pro sign…and products.

Along with the new iPad kiosks, Apple also added new acrylic block table signage for each product and service. The new signs are easier to see from a distance without cluttering the tables, and can easily be moved when products are repositioned for new store layouts.

Apple’s new iPad kiosk shopping system is available in the company’s retail stores now.

[This article has been updated with additional iPad kiosk information and photos.]

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22 Comments Leave Your Own

jfbiii

Can’t wait for the MicroSoft Store revamp that uses iPads in kiosk mode for all of their displays.

Lee Dronick

Can?t wait for the MicroSoft Store revamp that uses iPads in kiosk mode for all of their displays.

I was wondering if Apple is going to market this to other retailers. I went to their Apple Store for Business webpage and followed a link to their Retail point-of-sale page. I got a page not found, but not quite a typical error 404 page, maybe they are revamping that page to include iPad kiosks.

I am resisting the temptation to visit my local Apple Store and take a look at the kiosk. However, Sunday is rather busy at there and I should just wait until midweek.

Jeff Gamet

The iPad kiosks seemed pretty cool. People walked right up to them and started checking out specs and features as if the iPads had always been there. Some customers even thought the kiosks had always been there.

I’d love to see these in other stores… and it would be just awesome to see Microsoft buying Apple’s system and showing off PC specs in its stores on iPads.

Maria

and it would be just awesome to see Microsoft buying Apple?s system and showing off PC specs in its stores on iPads.

Hmmm…I wouldn’t hold your breath on that one. I think they’d use their Surface product first—and that’s not likely to happen either.

mlanger

But it would also be nice if they released some kind of system that made it possible for others to set up a Kiosk without wandering out of the Kiosk app and into the ipad OS. Or does something like that already exist and I’ve missed it? (I’ve been living in a cave guarded by an editor with a whip lately.)

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

I find it hilarious that retail sales employees had to sign NDAs specifically to participate in this revamp. Pretty underwhelming given the secrecy. I feel bad for any of their retail sales employees who might have felt uncomfortable with this garbage but couldn’t afford to say no. It’s one thing to subject tech super-nerds to these silly-con valley control games, but retail employees don’t have enough upside to have to be subjected to this crap.

(And no, this is not specifically an anti-Apple rant.)

Lancashire-Witch

@ Bosco - You sure you’re not scared you’ll get caught in an endless recursive loop if you go into a Store and use an iPad Kiosk to check out an iPad?

Lee Dronick
Lee Dronick

Pretty underwhelming given the secrecy. I

It is a chess move.

ctopher

How can you not admire a company who get marketing buzz over a merchandising change? Apple didn’t announce anything, didn’t promise anything, they just wanted to make a change and do it all at once. Sure, they could have rolled it out over several weeks, but then they’d have to support 2 systems (or look bad when they can’t replace a piece of merchandising because it’s going to be replaced soon anyway).

This is how a tight ship is run.

Of course you use NDA’s, you don’t want a competitor taking away your first mover advantage. There is nothing stopping Best Buy or your local mobile phone store from using their touch screens as info kiosks. but they didn’t and now, if they do, they’ll be rightly seen as followers.

Also, Apple gets to have the media announce that it’s done, not that it’s going to happen.

Of course Apple didn’t invent this merchandising idea at all. They just have the best tech to pull it off. In the same mall as our apple store there are 2 sunglasses stores with touch screen info kiosks. There’s a Brighton Store with a Windows 7 touchscreen running a bracelet designing app (flash of course).

But Apple invested in their brand by putting all those iPads in as kiosks. Remember, they sell every one, so by the numbers, it wasn’t like they had these things lying around doing nothing.

@mlanger - google iPad kiosk enclosures, they all cover the home button.

VaughnSC

Of course you use NDA?s [sic]? Now, if [Best Buy/mobile phone store] do, they?ll be rightly seen as followers

Frankly, I can?t see how this relates to the store employees? NDAs. Are you suggesting that with a few day?s advance notice, Best Buy could conceivably have ?beat them to the punch??

RonMacGuy

Really, guys? NDAs a big concern? NDAs are standard practice when it comes to privacy. I’ve signed a dozen of them in my company over the years. So not a big deal. Just Apple covering their butts - allows them to pursue legal action if necessary.

But I was so moved by Bosco’s pity on the poor and defenseless retail sales employees who were forced to sign scary-looking legal documents - I’ve started a trust fund to help cover the cost of psychological evaluations and counseling…

grin

Is there an eye-rolling emoticon?

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Ron, you supposedly manage a $60M engineering budget, and presumably get a salary and bonuses that reflect such responsibility. Apple store sales clerks are not highly paid and most are not responsible for meeting numbers on anything more than a team basis.

NDAs and non-competes are all too often just bullying mechanisms. They are also often practically unenforceable. It’s bad enough that the technology sector is overfilled with bullies who know how shaky such agreements are, yet still use them as a loyalty test. Don’t subject front-line salespeople to this garbage.

Ron, I certainly hope that you’ve had at least a few of those agreements reviewed by your own lawyer before signing them. If not, you’re probably leaving money on the table and someone up the chain making you sign these things thinks you just roll over on command.

Ross Edwards

Look, I’m all about digging on Apple’s retail moves, but I’m not seeing how replacing a penny (if that) worth of paper at each product display with a $500 iPad (or whatever they cost internally) is a sound financial move.  Yeah yeah, the iPad can run an attract/tutorial video… but then again, so can the product being displayed.

This is conspicuous consumption.  I’m not sure I like the fact that, wil I or nil I, some small part of this expenditure is going to be built into the price of every Apple product I purchase from this point forward.

Lee Dronick

Are you suggesting that with a few day?s advance notice, Best Buy could conceivably have ?beat them to the punch??

They, or anyone else, would be hard pressed to do with several months notice. Two things come to mind.

The “we too” statements that would be made by the competition if Apple announced ahead of time that they are going to be making a change. That would take some attention away from Apple, people would be talking about Megalow Mart’s plan to install tablet kiosks running Flash.

Also I think that it is just part of Apple’s corporate culture to keep secrets until the time is ripe.

Is there an eye-rolling emoticon?

There probably is, but would anyone know what it means? Perhaps an acronym RES “Rolls eyes, sighs” or just spell it out.

VaughnSC

I?m not seeing how replacing a penny (if that) worth of paper at each product display with a $500 iPad (or whatever they cost internally) is a sound financial move.

Count beans much, Ross? smile

By that same token, you may have cringed back in the day at Apple replacing all of its Selectric III typewriters with Macs and ImageWriters or having abandoned perfectly good ledger sheets for accounting.

You might also bemoan that the price of having a retail presence at all would be “built into the price of every Apple [?] purchase from this point forward”

I think this is a ‘lead-by-example’ statement from Apple, much like using iPod Touch devices for POS terminals. The benefits reaped will offset the costs.

RonMacGuy

Don?t subject front-line salespeople to this garbage.

I don’t “supposedly” manage a $60M engineering budget, I “actually” do, but you have to get your cheap little immature digs in somehow. That’s fine, I’m used to it. And I so love your defense of the “common man” - you remind me of Bono!

Look, when you reach a certain age, you are deemed mature enough to handle certain things. When you buy a house, you sign papers that tell you that if you don’t pay your mortgage they can take the house back. When you buy a car, they tell you they can repo your car if you fail to pay. Go skydiving and you sign a waiver that says if you hit the ground a bit too hard they are not liable.  Heck, you can sign up as a teenager for the armed forces, and you sign something that says your head may be blown off in defense of your country!!

I don’t care if you make $100M, $100K, or $10K a year - you are in the US workforce and at times you have to sign things, submit to drug tests, etc. So sad. And here you are whining about Apple making people sign a piece of paper that says they might get in trouble and lose their job if they talk to someone about iPads being used as kiosks in Apple stores before they open the doors. Give me a freaking break! Apple is so mean to their employees - but hey, we didn’t hear about it until they opened the doors, now did we? Hey, the NDA was actually effective!! Go figure!!

But keep getting your little digs in on me. Rolling over on command? Ha. I do know my place in my little corner of Corporate America. They pay me well for rolling over, that much is true!! And if it makes you feel good about it, I do roll over more than I care to admit!!

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Not getting digs in. But you are definitely leaving money on the table. I can tell by this:

I don?t care if you make $100M, $100K, or $10K a year - you are in the US workforce and at times you have to sign things, submit to drug tests, etc. So sad.

In many states, California for example, if you are asked to sign a non-compete, a court would find it non-binding if specific compensation were not offered for not competing. Additionally, if you then “violated” the non-compete, the most the company could recover from you would be the specific compensation. In the tech industry, non-competes are often tied to stock option grants. So a company could take away your worthless unvested stock. But additionally, if the employer decided to fire you or otherwise penalize you for not signing a non-compete or even for getting legal review, the Labor Board would come down hard.

Most of this crap is just an intimidation racket. If you’re a highly paid employee, there’s nothing wrong with participating in it as a signee. I think it reflects badly on you if you push this crap too far down the chain. If you are up the chain and sign these routinely, you should at least know what the game really is and whether you can squeeze more value out of it for yourself. You can occasionally afford $300 of lawyer time to have an agreement reviewed and explained to you, with up-to-date, local case law considerations. It’s a good investment, if for no other reason that when crap goes bad with your company, you’re the guy who has kept up on his rights and your higher ups know you are armed with a lawyer. Being faster than the slowest guy and all that…

Ross Edwards

abandoned perfectly good ledger sheets for accounting.

Moving accounting from paper to the computer is a fundamental functional improvement that changes much of what you can do.  If these iPads are mere information kiosks displaying price and features and running promo videos that the device on sale itself can run, where is the added value that compares to the jump from paper accounting to digital spreadsheeting?  Is the value jump, if any, from having the iPad kiosks worth fifty thousand times more than having employees replace price tags every once in a while and just running promo videos on the actual devices?

Apple replacing all of its Selectric III typewriters with Macs and ImageWriters

This, at least, is an apples-to-apples comparison.  But, again, did a Mac with Imagewriter cost fifty thousand times as much as a typewriter?  Because my point is made in degree, even if you don’t want to concede type.

This is the sort of move that would have made perfect sense in like ten years when we have cheap and abundant SmartPaper that can be fed data and images wirelessly and can be placed at every kiosk.  What Apple has just done is a clunky, limited-to-current-tech, horrifically-expensive facsimile of that future scenario.  Usually, Apple waits for the tech to be established and then perfects it.  What have they done here?

RonMacGuy

Not getting digs in. But you are definitely leaving money on the table. I can tell by this:

Brad, my status within my company is kind of off-topic here, but I appreciate your concern.  Non-competes are a lot different than NDAs.  I do agree with your comment about not pushing the “crap too far down the chain” but I think a signed agreement to not go talking to the press about an upcoming Apple confidential situation is not too much to ask of one’s employees.  I don’t think this reflects badly at all on Apple.  I think it is pretty standard in the industry.  The NDAs I’ve signed were mostly for secret studies of mergers and acquisitions targets.  2-3 pages, basically stating I promise not to disclose the information related to the study that I am supporting, and that I have to secure any and all electronic files and documentation related to said study and would turn over all electronic files and documentation related to “Project Whatever” if I were to switch jobs, and so on and so on.  I suspect the Apple NDA for store employees is even more basic than that.  Hardly a need for a lawyer to review.  Does anyone have a copy of the NDA that was required by Apple?

I am sorry for overreacting.  Old habits die hard!!  grin

On the subject of non-competes, I agree that those are primarily intimidation-related.  They don’t really stop anything.  If I give 2-week notice that I am leaving my company, and they ask where I am going, they will walk me out the door immediately when I tell them I am going to competitor.  I know a dozen people who have done this.

Lee Dronick

On the subject of non-competes, I agree that those are primarily intimidation-related.? They don?t really stop anything.? If I give 2-week notice that I am leaving my company, and they ask where I am going, they will walk me out the door immediately when I tell them I am going to competitor.? I know a dozen people who have done this.

It is my understanding that non-competes in California are generally not enforceable. However, other States have different laws.

webjprgm

But, again, did a Mac with Imagewriter cost fifty thousand times as much as a typewriter??

You missed the fact that an employee has to replace all those penny paper signs, so there’s also labor cost being saved. Probably not very costly labor, but still, “fifty thousand times” can’t be accurate.

But I think you also get advantage with the iPad kiosks by:
  - Coolness factor.  Apple stores are already cool, but this keeps them ahead of, or at least on the leading edge of, the curve
  - They look and act like signs, just better.  Being on the same device doesn’t work because customers pause and exit those demos when they examine the device.  But being obviously a sign, they provide information intuitively while the customer can still handle the device any way they want.
  - Advertising.  Shows off the iPad, maybe convinces other people to use them similarly in their stores.


Non-compete argument: I know they are unenforceable, so I sign them when I have to knowing that if I ever need to get around it I still can.  I don’t sign them if I have present plans to compete, since that’s dishonest, but otherwise sure.  However, there was a case at one company where they kept trying to get me to sign some paper that had an item on it I did not like.  So every time they gave it to me I shoved it in the bottom of my drawer.  Eventually they changed secretaries and the new one didn’t know I hadn’t signed it so I wasn’t bothered anymore.  A professor I had told me he did the same thing at Novel, and when they finally hunted him down after 5 years to sign or be fired, he quit (because he was about to quit anyway).

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