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The Apple Flagship Store

The Big Apple in San Francisco

On February 28, 2004, Apple opened its newest flagship store after CEO Steve Jobs, Mayor Gavin Newsom and former mayor Willie Brown cut the ceremonial ribbon. This is not your typical software or hardware retail shop. Apple has five flagship stores worldwide, all designed to bring out and foster the creative side of Mac and Windows users alike.

Apple's hands-on approach in its retail stores encourages customers to test the products on display. Knowledgeable, ubiquitous staff are waiting to answer any questions you have. Something to note is that these folks actually can answer your questions, compared with other computer stores. They are passionate about the products, and eager to show you some of their own photos or home movies made with iPhoto or iMovie.

This store isn't as large as it neighbor across the street, the Virgin Megastore, but the space is well organized and the open architecture is very inviting. There are two floors displaying both Apple and non-Apple hardware and software in themed areas or stations. All the products are live and connected to other devices or the Internet to promote interactive use and testing.

The first floor is broken out into six stations, divided by an impressive glass staircase descending from the second floor. The most current devices are set up here for you to play with and eventually purchase, such as the iPod (from $249 for 4GB of storage to $499 for 40GB of storage) or Apple-compatible digital cameras ($179 for Nikon Coolpix 2200 to $999 for a Canon EO5 Digital Rebel). You will also find the G5 Server, iMac, iBook, PowerBook and flat-screen monitors on this floor.

Music fans can listen to the iPod with headphones or connect it to different space-age variations of loudspeakers. One station even has an electronic keyboard to make your own music using Apple's music application, GarageBand.

At the top of the stairs, you face an open-air theater. I didn't count them, but I've been told there are 39 theater seats (why not 40?) for folks interested in the free seminars offered daily. To the right of the theater is the Genius Bar, where you might feel the desire to order a drink but, instead, will find a dozen or so technical experts ready to help troubleshoot problems or answer questions.

On the opposite side of the staircase is an Internet Café and a Kids station luring customers into interactive sessions with the knowledgeable personnel we found everywhere in the store. There are 12 iMacs in the Internet Café, all providing free Internet access and configured with iSight video cameras for face-to-face communication. The Kids station looks like a mini café, literally. There are six iMacs on a lowered table, loaded with educational software found in the video software library directly behind the station. Behind the live workstations are how-to books and the software wall, displaying everything from OS X to the latest video games.

All products sold at this retail location conform to Apple's strict pricing policies. You can find updated pricing information online at www.apple.com.

For more information about the free events and seminars held at this retail location, check out: www.apple.com/retail/sanfrancisco/.