Wednesday, June 14, 2006

A Completely Impartial Review of the New Apple Store on Fifth Avenue

One of the things that distinguishes New York City from, say, Bismarck, North Dakota, or any other place in the world populated by normal, healthy, down-to-earth people (sorry, Dubai!) is our penchant for ridiculous, gimmicky businesses vying for your tourist attention and all trying to outdo each other. It's not just the crazy animatronic Christmas displays around town and the multi-billion dollar, special-effects laden musicals, but even places that don't deserve to make it into the guidebooks somehow figure out a way to make it into the guidebooks: the bed-and-breakfast (literally) restaurant or the toy store with a robot elevator and a dance-on piano. And into this mess of eye-popping glitz, Apple Computer brings us the eighth architectural wonder of the world: a computer store hidden inside a giant aquarium.

No wonder so many people showed up for the grand opening, standing around in the rain and waiting for someone to explain what the hell iWork is actually supposed to do. And here's a gratutious picture of Spike Lee showing off his iPod... I guess... to James Woods, who probably got lost on his way to a Texas Hold-Em tournament.

The store fits nicely in the Apple design tradition — clean lines, minimalism, and a unique look that you get over pretty quickly once you come face-to-face with its banal insides. I'm not entirely sure what I expected, but I was totally disappointed when, underneath the terrarium, it was just shelf after shelf of computers and people from the midwest who can't figure out how to turn their iPods off. And this differs from Best Buy how, exactly? Oh, I see, they offer seminars on podcasting and the questionably-marketed Genius Bar and they're open 24/365.... because, who the hell is buying a PowerBook at two in the morning on Thanksgiving Eve? It's pretty much Apple's philosophy: lure you in with a ton of superfluous features (as if anyone, anywhere ever uses iMix) then charge you an extra four hundred bucks once you're indoctrinated, wearing the white earbuds and the compatible sneakers. On the plus side, you can smugly bash Microsoft and look down upon the PC conformists.