Apple opens first US store

Hundreds of eager and curious Mac users flocked to the grand opening of Apple's first retail store Saturday, where some anxious consumers waited hours to be the first in line. The store in Washington is the first of 25 that will open across the country this year, selling a full line of Apple products and over 300 third-party software titles. A store in, California, also made its debut Saturday morning - although Apple has no plans to open stores in the UK. "The retail division in general is the most exciting place to be right now," said Laura Wynne, Apple's regional director. The "stylish" and "functional" store is split into different sections, catering to all types of Mac users, from the curious passerby to the savvy graphic artist. The Genius Bar in the back is staffed with Apple experts, who serve bottled spring water and help customers with technical questions. If the question is too tough, staff members can pick up the red "Apple hotline," which is a direct link to Apple headquarters. "People here actually know what they're talking about," said graphic designer Sean Copley, who has been using Apple computers since 1994. "The Genius Bar is probably the coolest part of the store." All employees go through a one month-long training program at Apple's home base in Cupertino, California, and must have great interpersonal skills, said Kathie Calcidise, Apple's vice president of retail stores. "First of all, I love the store," said Apple store employee Ali Mohan, 28, who was helping customers with software. "I love the Mac. I've been using them for at least six years." Mohan said customers were especially interested in the iBooks and whether some of the third-party software will work with Mac OS X, the company's latest operating system release. The store also houses a brightly coloured children's section, where the youngest of Mac users can play games such as Toy Story 2 and Bugdom on Blue Dalmatian and Flower Power iMacs. "[The store] is pretty cool," said 4-year-old Thacher Shields, as he expertly maneuvered the characters in Toy Story 2. "There is real cool stuff here." But the store's main attraction is the product display, which includes Powerbooks, G4 processors, MP3 players, CD burners, 22-inch cinema displays and digital cameras, all loaded with programs and available for everyone's use. "Apple seems to take retail out of the equation," said 24-year-old Patrick Donohue, a proud G4-owner, who's been using Macs since he was a child. "It's an interactive experience where customers can actually see their products in action. They have taken a real hands-on approach to selling computers." Most customers agreed that true to Apple's creative and innovative nature, the store has a lot of style. The brightly-lit "boutique" has a clean and almost futuristic design. The front store windows are made to look like the desktop of Mac OS X. "It's a Gap with Apple products," Copley said. "There's an aesthetic quality to using a Mac. It only goes without saying that their store would be the same way." However, long-time Apple user Barbara McCall said she was a little disappointed. "There's no Internet café that I can see here," McCall said. "We need to get more passionate and spread the word. We need to get out that we love it."

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