Just as hard drives are described in units of "Libraries of Congress" - as in, "You can store 1,000 LOCs on this baby!" - so, too, has Apple taken to one-upping the Macworld Conference & Expo by enumerating the visitors to its retail stores in units of Macworld shows. Apple VP Phil Schiller said during this year's keynote that 100 Macworld Expos' worth of customers pass through Apple's retail store doors each week.
That's a red herring of epic proportions. Excluding the conference part of Macworld, in which hundreds of people pay hundreds to thousands of dollars for education, the trade show floor offers 500 exhibitors with at least 5,000 staffers providing non-stop hands-on demonstrations and answering questions.
Each Apple Store, by contrast, presents one company, maybe a few hundred select products, a score of employees trained to answer questions identically, and a carefully controlled experience that's primarily about Apple's need to deliver high-dollar-per-square-foot retail sales. That's great for Apple, but it doesn't open the eyes of Mac, iPhone, and iPod users to more than a limited set of items that Apple allows in its stores. And Apple is careful to keep out any product, such as a troubleshooting book, that might imply you could have problems using your Apple hardware.
I've seen thousands of models of cameras, printers, scanners, and other peripherals at Macworld; an Apple Store stocks only dozens. I was able to spend 15 minutes with a Drobo representative nailing down details I didn't entirely understand about the product, and I was able to pull a working drive out of a Drobo and watch it recover. I can't do that at an Apple Store.
The Apple Store metaphor is perfectly revealing about Apple's attitude. Apple customers are Apple's - not IDG's, not third-party developers', and not anyone else's. Apple's store, Apple's events, Apple's customers. Nothing more, nothing less, but I'd like to think I'm more than just a customer.