The Apple Store: Haute Matériel

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Essays

Today I had the opportunity to go to the Apple Store in Palo Alto while waiting for a meeting. Given that I bought my last few Apple devices either online or from friends, I haven’t actually been in an Apple store in a while. It was kind of an eye-opening experience.

They have a half-dozen sections of non-Apple products, including cases from Incase, Speck and others, some branded by Marc Jacobs and Kate Spade; handbags by Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors; Harman Kardon headphones, Jawbone speakers, other tablet-type devices that are apparently meant to go along with desktops; smart keyboards and stands; and a shelf for fitness and wellness devices, thermostats, LED lamps. I was struck by two observations while browsing the myriad items:

1. Apple is more than a technology brand. It is a luxury brand, who seems to be working on a luxury empire not so dissimilar from LVMH. The Stanford Apple Store is directly next to Tory Burch. While you can also buy an iPhone at Walmart, it still costs hundreds of dollars. And for their retail experience, it is clear: nerdy glamour is real. Amanda Peyton is rightI wonder if they intend to acquire any of these companies, or just built a moat around their brand by offering luxury retail distribution for device makers. The iPad and iPhone are still their bread and butter, after all.

2. On that note, I also read that Apple accounts for 20% of all consumer technology revenue*, followed by Samsung, HP, Sony, and Dell. The big three** – phones, tablets, and computers – dominate the consumer technology landscape, and based on the growth trends, it looks to soon become the big two. I have to suppose that other technology outside of mobile devices will rise into the categories where computers and TV’s once were: will that be thermostats? Lamps? Wristbands? Watches? If Apple thinks that’s true, then I wonder why they are selling others’ products, instead of building them themselves. 

These things aren’t new, it’s just surprising and exciting to me how quickly this luxury technology space is growing. I’m increasingly leaning into brand-name technology, not only for functionality, but as a form of cultural expression. We all will, soon. I wonder if haute matériel – haute couture for technology – will move consumer electronics purchasing power permanently away from the 18-35 male. Some suggest it already has. For the better, if you ask me. If the technology community has to acknowledge that it’s building the future for women, then one hopes it will do better to embrace and celebrate more women as the builders. Well, I wasn’t expecting my train of thought to go this way, but heck: not mad at it.

*Nasty.
**TV’s are toast.

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