Apple Stores Working on “Something Big” This Weekend, Report

| Analysis

Apple's Cloudy Crystal BallApple may be planning “something big” for the 10th anniversary of the opening of the first Apple Store in 2001, according to a report from Boy Genius Reports. What that something is isn’t at all clear, but the site claimed an unnamed “solid source” described elaborate plans at the company’s fleet of retail stores that include a surprise overnight shift, black curtains on the store front, hardware to install in the stores, and gigabytes of password protected training materials to download.

First let’s look at the plans Apple reportedly has in the works. The company will have 10-15 employees working an overnight shift starting on Saturday night. These employees will include a wide variety of staff roles from within the retail ranks (a manager, Geniuses, visuals staff, and more). During the shift, employees will have to lock their cellphones in the manager’s office, and they must sign an NDA to even work the shift to begin with.

BGR also said that some hardware has already been delivered to stores under lock and key, where it is to remain until Saturday. More hardware and other materials are expected to arrive later this week, and this is supposedly gear to be installed in the Apple Stores, as opposed to inventory of some new product.

Apple will also be putting up black curtains in the store fronts of its stores to keep prying eyes out while the employees work on these plans, and some employees have had to download “gigabytes” of training materials that is password protected. No one will actually receive a password to open this material, not even managers, until Saturday afternoon.

This may not actually be some kind of event to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the retail stores, per se. Apple opened up its first Apple Store in McLean, VA on May 19th, 2001, and a quick check of the calendar shows that the overnight work will begin on Saturday, May 21st, two days after the anniversary. On the other hand, Friday the 20th has the double bonus of being all but the actual anniversary, while matching Apple’s usual pattern of releasing new products at the end of the week.

Furthermore, BGR said that staff meetings will be held throughout Sunday; one might presume to assume that this will involve all those training materials, which really suggests that Apple is planning to unveil whatever it is unveiling on either Sunday itself or Monday, May 22nd. It could come later in the week, but it would be uncharacteristic of Apple to attach so much secrecy to its plans and then give all the newly trained little birds time to sing about what they’ve learned.

This report dovetails nicely with a report from AppleInsider on April 20th that said Apple had blacked out retail store employee vacations from May 20th, through the 22nd, which lends some credence to BGR’s report.

Be that as it may, it would seem that Apple is either going to deliver a surprise product update, launch some kind of retail store promotion, or perhaps even launch its much-rumored iCloud.com service.

Indeed, that’s the only rumored new product or service that has been making the rounds with a nearish time frame, though much of the speculation surrounding iCloud has centered around a WWDC launch in June.

We can throw in the trouble Apple has been having with MobileMe in the past couple of days as a modest and circumstantial bit of added evidence that the company is nearer than we might have thought to launching its new cloud-based service, and if it is iCloud, perhaps the new hardware being installed in the Apple Store locations is network related.

Whatever the case, if BGR’s source is correct, there should be a serious intensification of rumors, leaks, and probably even controlled leaks from Apple itself over the next several days heading up to this big weekend overnight shindig.

Comments

palenoue

Apple is going to declare itself a sovereign nation and all stores will be embassies.

Papagiorgio

My guess is that this will be the kickoff to Apple’s annual back-to-school promotion, which usually runs late May to early September.  I’d love for it to be a new product intro.

jfbiii

If you look at it from a “what would be a kick in the teeth” to competitors, analysts, tech pundits frame…

iCloud seems like the best candidate for a store rollout. Not least because having employees up to snuff for the release would require a good bit more training for that service from a customer-experience standpoint (which is the stores’ spear point). Music/movie/TV-streaming that’s more than just cloud storage and synching that could take some of the wind out of the Amazon/Google sails and finally give some real purpose to that huge new data facility in the Carolinas. Honestly I think they could do better with really robust synching and management of one’s iTunes library file than with the actual file transfer (which I think is still better handled locally than in the cloud).

But what product would go with that? And not require a special event for launch?

Revamped iPod line might fit that bill. iPhone 5 or an iPad 2.5 or an iPad Mini all seem like they would still merit a special event in Cupertino. Theoretically a revamped iPod line could tie in with back-to-school. A new iPod Touch 7” is too much like iPad Mini, I think. And a retina display wouldn’t be a retina display at that size any more. Although it would be closer than the iPad currently has.

An iPad 2.5 with a retina display-upgrade would qualify as a kick in the teeth, but Samsung just announced that panel this week…having that stay secret for long enough to have rolled through the production process could have happened but only if it didn’t require new cases and THAT would imply that Apple has managed to do something magical with batteries, too. No way you could dump a retina display into the iPad without serious battery consequences and Apple has not been in the habit of going backwards with battery-life. Although thinking about it, my iPod Touch has a retina display in the same thin case that it had pre-retina (even slimmer, actually) and it didn’t suffer.

iPhone 5 would qualify as a kick in the teeth, too. We’ve already seem a leaked case, we know or think we know there won’t be a release of it at WWDC, and it would completely sabotage analysts and competitors expecting something closer to back-to-school. And Apple has repeatedly demonstrated that they work on their own time lines. An early summer release of iPhone 5 would probably badly disrupt competitors by sucking up a lot of the business between now and QTR 1, including locking in wishlists.

The only other big product revamp that springs to mind is Final Cut Pro. Apple has been hiring customer support for that product already. I was expecting that to coincide with WWDC but it isn’t a perfect fit there. It is a customer experience product, though. And might not merit its own special event. And could be rolled into an iCloud launch especially considering it would likely only be available through the Mac App Store. And what physical product could go with it? A new camera seems unlikely, unless it were upgraded cameras in iPod touches (sorely needed) and iPad 2’s. Sony made a remark about Apple buying their best cameras that could support there being a refresh in either or both of those products that would likely be considered an incremental feature.

A TimeCapsule thunderbolt refresh might be a good candidate. It’s decidedly consumer-oriented and a physical device. It would also fit either the iCloud or Final Cut Pro releases. If it happened to have a magic way to plug an adaptor into an existing bus on older products that managed to maintain the throughput that would be noteworthy although it seems impossible to me.

Thunderbolt cards for Mac Pros and/or something to fill express card slots for Macbook Pros would also be physical devices but not as worthy of the surprise.

dwallin

A TV - or line of TVs - to go with iCloud?

Lee Dronick

A TV - or line of TVs - to go with iCloud?

Quite possible. I also note that the ISPs are putting bandwidth caps in place. Maybe they knew that there was competition coming to their media offerings.

geoduck
Lee Dronick

Monday is Victoria Day
They are releasing a Steampunk iPhone5

It will synch wirelessly with the new Mac Mini.

moondoggle

it won’t be a completely new product…will be a revamp or major release roll out of an existing one:
1) mobileme—> icloud
2) Apple TV—> Apple TV+
3) iPods—> iPod Nano with video
4) etc…

ilikeimac

Anti-climatic possibility: new furniture and decor for the Apple Stores. Now that Microsoft has basically ripped off the look of the current Apple Stores maybe Apple is just looking to revamp the retail trade dress for the 10th anniversary.

Lee Dronick

Now that Microsoft has basically ripped off the look of the current Apple Stores maybe Apple is just looking to revamp the retail trade dress for the 10th anniversary.

Not just the MicroSoft Store, but our local Fry’s has big Apple section. Unlike the rest of the store which is rather drab, the Apple Aisle is well lit and cheery. Fairly well stocked with peripherals and accessories too.

Jim Long

Part of me hopes that is IS a new TV made by Apple. But part of me knows that I will have a problem selling my 2 new 55” Samsung’s….. and I’d just HAVE to get rid of them for an offering by Apple!

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