High Tech

Best place to indulge your tech fetish

Photo By Larry Dalton

The Apple Store

Stroll into the core of Apple Computer’s new Sacramento retail outlet. You’ll be lost in the clean, white glow of the place. And it is strangely uncluttered. It may be very much like walking into the marketing future.

The only decorations are the cheerful objects of the Mac cult’s fetish: goose-necked iMacs that seem to crane their necks as little iPods snooze in their docks. Outside, one side of the storefront consists of one big floor-to-ceiling window with posters of the newest gadgets hanging inside the glass. The other side is a windowless black wall with a glowing white Apple logo on it. The interior is a spare cathedral of ergonomics, dedicated to glorifying the objects it celebrates. The goods are displayed with the kind of perfect presentation usually reserved for a museum. In fact, with white walls and sophisticated lighting, the inside feels a lot more like a gallery than a retail outlet.

This is how a company that depends on creating a buzz and longing for its products wants you to feel. On desks and counters, the computers are not so much for sale as they are on display, which is a fitting attitude for a company that tries to be more of an institution than a manufacturer of information processors. The store is divided by frosted glass partitions that set off different stations devoted to digital cameras, video, music and other aspects of computing. At the station dedicated to the iPod, a photograph of uber-hip recording artist Beck hangs above computers running the latest music-management software. Next to that is the Genius Bar, where technicians take questions underneath big black-and-white photos of Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lennon. Here, they want you to feel sophisticated. They want you to feel creative. They want you to feel smart. Accordingly, the laptops being exhibited are cased in bright white plastic or shiny titanium, and the apple logo on the back of the screen glows when the computer is in use.

Bigger iMacs look less like desktop machines than they do some relic from a future that hasn’t happened yet—except that it’s happening. It seems appropriate given the surreal nature of some of the more luxurious products, such as the 1-gigahertz PowerBook G4 ($3,299) that conceals a 17-inch screen inside its titanium shell, or the new G5 with dual 2-gigahertz processors ($2,999) that might go nicely with the billboard-sized 23-inch flat-panel display ($1,999). Everything beckons, begging you to mouse around, which is exactly the reason Apple started planting these retail outlets around the country two years ago: to let prospective converts see and touch the sometimes-misunderstood Macs. Sacramento’s store, which opened earlier this year, brings the city into the ranks of trendier locales like Palo Alto and SoHo, where Apple stores have staked out high-foot-traffic turf in hopes of snaring unsuspecting passersby like some kind of exotic, predatory plant that survives solely on disposable income. The Mac has always had a small, cultish following, and the reason for opening all these stores—63 so far—is to turn everyone else into true believers. And, like the computers whose award-winning industrial designs shape the way other computers and products are designed, the stores themselves are built around the kind of interior design not usually found in malls. The Sacramento store’s milky hardwood floor, for example, is dance-studio quality, and Apple holds a patent on the light fixtures recessed in the white ceiling. It’s all designed to suck you in—and it works.
In Arden Fair Mall, 1689 Arden Way, Suite 2134; (916) 643-0960.