This article originally appeared in 24hrs Vancouver on June 11, 2008.

When Steve Jobs took the stage in San Francisco on Monday to take the wraps off Apple’s latest iPhone, there were no debates as to what he would be wearing on the stage.

WWDC 2008

Steve walked out wearing jeans and a black turtleneck. He’s always wearing jeans and a black turtleneck, its part of his brand. Jobs likes things consistent and on message. The slides he uses for his keynotes are clean and simple. He speaks in short, confident sentences that are just vague enough to build curiosity.

Steve is like the company he leads. Apple is, from beginning to end, website to storefront, product to packaging – consistent and on message. Everything is about the experience. Steve’s keynotes are anticipation building thrill rides. Opening a new Apple box reveals layers of thoughtful and elegant design. While Apple products are not as basic as a black turtleneck and jeans, they are that simple: monochromatic, smooth functionality, solid colours, clean lines.

If you’ve been inside the new Apple Store in Vancouver, you’d be hard pressed to know it was in Pacific Centre. It’s laid out with the same floor plan as stores in Portland, Seattle and many other locations.

The front of the store has iMacs and iPods and MacBooks open and ready to be sampled. The middle of store has software, accessories and a kid’s area. The back third is a tutoring area, while looking over the entire space, along the back wall, is the famous Genius Bar. (Geniuses are trained at Apple headquarters, and can take care of everything from troubleshooting problems to actual repairs.)

The Vancouver Apple Store is a familiar place, and for those wanting to learn how to get into this Mac world it’s a place to feel confident and comfortable.

Nancy Zimmerman is the Bank Evangelist for Citizens Bank of Canada. About a year ago she made the switch from Windows to Mac.

“For all the usual reasons,” she confesses. “Better design, better product. A lot of people love it, and especially avoiding the virus problems.”

Nancy’s been poking around her Mac and likes to pick up tips and tricks from other people instead of books. She’d gathered a few questions and then heard about an offer at the Apple Store that made her stop and, literally, think twice.

They offer 52 once a week, one hour, one-on-one training sessions, on any Mac topic you’d like for $99.

“I actually went in twice, because I didn’t believe it,” Nancy gleams. “I’m interested in learning how to podcast for the bank, and I thought this would be a great way to learn how to do it with GarageBand.”

Nancy met with Matt for her first session last weekend.

“It was as seamless and lovely as Apple users usually have with their Macs.”

You might even say it was on message. Nancy was greeted right away by someone waiting at the door with her reservation and by the time she had made her way to the back of the store, Matt was waiting to be introduced to her.

“Matt could be the kid in the commercials,” chuckles Nancy. “He looked liked him, his aura was like him, his conversational style was like him.”

Next week’s lesson will have Nancy start to build her first podcast, and she plans on heading down to the store for appointments once a week “for the foreseeable future.”

Nancy is not the only one raving about her experience in the new Apple Store.

“The best part about the store is that every employee I talked to was absolutely thrilled that they were working there,” writes Duane Storey at MatthewGood.org. “I had random chats about everything I could think of, and the responses I got from the employees showed that they were all serious Mac power users.”

Apple is a perfectly vertically integrated business. They make the operating system, they make the software applications, they make the hardware, they sell it to you, they teach you how to use it. They control the experience from front to back. From Steve to Matt to Nancy to Duane, it’s a consistent message and one that’s spreading.

The $99 for 52 sessions is not the only education the Apple Store offers. You can make appointments to see a Genius, or attend free workshop where you can learn just about anything Mac related. There are also free daytime Apple Camps for kids scheduled throughout the summer.


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