Sunday, October 24, 2010

Red Line Station Applized as Apple Mania Descends on North Avenue for opening of Lincoln Park store

click images for larger view
A drear, rainy day didn't stop Macaddicts from turning out in force for the Saturday opening of Apple's new store at North and Halsted.
According to the website, nearly 300 people were standing in line by the time the store opened at 10:00 a.m., with mayoral hopeful Rahm Emanuel earlier working the line, shaking hands and asking, "What are you going to buy today?"
As the rains came, store employees handed out Apple branded umbrellas, which were collected as customers entered the store, in small controlled batches, to the thanks of employees, applause . . .
and even high fives . . .
In essence, the steel-clad store is a 6,500 square-foot rectangular tube for selling. open at both ends with all-glass facades, centered by the iconic Apple logo floating above in benediction.  According to Crain's Chicago Business, the property on which the store stands, formerly home to a gas station, was acquired for $10.5 million by an unnamed Mexican investor, with Apple paying a cool $750,00 for leasing rights, which extend through the next 30 years.
The total size is 18,000 square-feet, including the back-office basement and adjacent, marble paved plaza.  Included is a flush-surfaced shallow fountain that's the very model of Apple minimalism. has an informative and entertaining account of the preparation and opening here, including links to other accounts and some great photos far more professional than what you see in this post.  (They had better weather: that's my story and I'm sticking to it.) See our previous report on the Lincoln Park Apple store, including a more detailed account of the elements of the design here.

After the break: read about the Apple-funded North & Clybourn station rehab (with pictures) and John Sculley's take on his days at Apple.

The plaza faces the CTA Red Line's North & Clybourn subway station head house.

As part of the project, Apple "adopted" the station at a contribution reported to be nearly $4,000,000, with the original dark brick facing getting a much lighter replacement, part of a total rehabilitation with a handsome plaza-side entrance, and new, large windows and an interior refurbishing which make the formerly decrepit interior a bright, inviting space.  
Although the word "Apple" has not officially been incorporated into the station's name, the situation becomes clear as soon as you begin to head down the stair and pass under the first of the many Apple adverts that now have the exclusive run of the facility.

Beneath ground level, there's no new construction, but all the surfaces have been scrubbed clean to their original sparkle . . .
with a slight residue of decades of stubborn grime and graffiti, and a few inscrutable previous patches in evidence as well . . .
At platform level, everything is pristine and bright.  The concrete walls left bare at pretty much every other station in the system have been given a uniform whitewash, the better to show off the CTA's first trackside backlit billboards, here all touting Apple products.
Back at the store, prominently featured is the new Macbook Air, released just this week, which totally jettisons the usual hard drives for solid state storage, making for a laptop that is both incredibly thin (.68 thick at the edge in the 13 inch version) and superlight (2.9 pounds).  The first Macbook Air was left pretty much to fly under the radar while all the attention was going to iPhones and iPads, and when it first came out I was skeptical of the viability of any device that required an external optical drive, Ethernet available only through a USB adapter, small hard drives, and only one USB port.

Now, it seems like the Air may have been ahead of its time.  We are becoming predominantly a wireless world.  With more and more of our work in the cloud, those small hard drives - in the case of the new Airs, from 64 to 256GB - begin to seem ample.  And with a video card whose 1440 by 900 resolution can drive an external Cinema Display, the question to me becomes not why anyone would want a superlight, unibody durable Macbook Air, but why anyone who has the couple hundred extra dollars to spend would really want an iPad.

The Air could, of course, turn out to be the flop that brings Apple back down to earth, but I wouldn't bet on it.  Apple seems to have discovered the magic sweet-spot convergence between innovation, design, and marketing.
It anyone needs a reminder of this, editor Leaner Kahney has a fascinating, in-depth interview of former Pepsico President John Sculley, who was brought in to be CEO of Apple in 1983 and who two years later fired co-founder Steve Jobs, and set him off on a long exile.  Sculley remained, Apple all but collapsed, Sculley departed, and Jobs was finally brought back to lead a seemingly terminally damaged entity.  Michael Dell snidely remarked that the best course for Apple stockholders would be to liquidate the company.  Then came the iPod. iPhone and iPad.  Apple's market share in computers has now passed 10%.  Its market cap passed Dell's in 2006.  Since then, it's almost quadrupled, and currently Apple is America's second most valuable company, surpassed only by Exxon Mobil.

Sculley's retrospective take on Jobs is almost creepily mea culpa: Steve was right; I was wrong.  For Microsoft, its end customers are its second concern, once removed or more from the manufacturers and vendors that are the primary partners for propel its business.   Sculley notes that Job's take was always different:
Steve had this perspective that always started with the user's experience; and that industrial design was an incredibly important part of that user impression. He recruited me to Apple because he believed the computer was eventually going to become a consumer product. That was an outrageous idea back in the early 1980s.
Sculley relates that when a friend recently had a meeting at Apple, discussion stopped when the designers entered the room, because "designers are the most respected people in the organization."  When the same person had a meeting at Microsoft, "no designers ever walk into the room. All the technical people are sitting there trying to add their ideas of what ought to be in the design. "

Ironically, Sculley himself relates, without seeming to be aware of the implication, why Sculley/Apple would be inevitably oil and water.  Sculley was asked to run Apple because of his success with Pepsi.  Pepsi was an also-ran product.  While not identical in taste to the dominant Coke, it was not massively dissimilar, and far deficient in reputation.  Sculley's brilliant - and successful - strategy was a form of diversionary marketing: "Coke always focused on the drink. We focused on the person using it."  What came to be know as lifestyle marketing lifted Pepsi into the big leagues.

Apple, of course, is also very much about promoting a lifestyle but, ultimately, it's all about the product.  iPod, iPhone, iPad - will the Mac Air be next?

You can read the entire Sculley interview  here.  Business Week has also published a condensed version here.


FGFM said...

So, was there anything on sale there that you couldn't buy shipping and tax free on Amazon? What the iCapplemac!

Michael said...

You can have bread delivered to your house, too, it's not the same as having the Pope give you Communion at St. Peter's.

Steven Vance said...

My favorite part of this opening and plaza is the sign that says to lock bikes only to bike racks but doesn't provide any bike racks.

See the photo