Apple unveils updated retail experience, introduces interactive iPad displays

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Date: Monday, May 23rd, 2011, 03:52
Category: News, retail

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There were rumblings that Apple was doing something for its 10th retail anniversary.

And they apparently did.

Per Mac Prices Australia, Apple retail stores have taken the wraps off Apple’s new retail upgrade, which makes use of interactive iPad displays to provide product information, pricing and features.

Apple launched “Retail 2.0″ on Sunday morning in commemoration of the 10th anniversary of Apple retail stores. The company opened its first retail stores on May 19, 2001, in McLean, Virginia and Glendale, Calif.

According to the report, the main change is the addition of stationary iPads placed next to other Apple products in order to display product prices, information and features. The touchscreen tablets can also be used to compare models and ask for help from a specialist. Photos of the new iPad display units reveal that the devices are placed in plexiglass.

The iPads appear to be running a custom software application, as customers report that pressing the home button on the tablets does nothing. Though the power cable for the device does not appear to connect to the dock, one person familiar with the matter said the cable is indeed connected to the dock connector, but is “very well hidden.” Also, detaching the cable will reportedly activate an alarm.

Some reports also suggested that Apple retail employees were wearing party hats to celebrate the occasion. Customers reported via Twitter that the Apple store updates created a “totally new experience.”

Apple had been reported as stockpiling iPads in preparation for a retail overhaul, the new in-house iPads having been slated for use with an updated version of RetailMe, Apple’s proprietary retail software.

Apple reportedly scheduled overnight shifts for retail employees in preparation for the updates to the Apple store. The company had blocked employees from taking vacation from May 20 to May 22. Mandatory meetings have been scheduled on Sunday morning and evening for Apple retail staff.

Apple has also taken offline the Order Status page from its website until Sunday, May 22 in order to perform a system update.

A recent report claimed Apple will update its “Apple Store” retail app for iOS this weekend, adding full build-to-order purchasing options to the application. Apple first released the retail app last year with support for stock configuration orders.

If you’ve wandered into an Apple Store location since the overhaul this weekend and have anything to report, let us know.

Apple anticipated to launch “iCloud” service providing terms can be reached with music publishers

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Date: Monday, May 23rd, 2011, 03:33
Category: iTunes, News

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You’re hankering for Apple to launch a streaming music service with assorted other features.

You may not have to wait too long.

According to MediaMemo, Music industry insiders expect that Apple wants to launch, or at least introduce, its anticipated “iCloud” music streaming service in June, though the company must also reach agreements with music publishers.

Pursuant to this, Apple is said to have started making deals with the labels first in its negotiation process, and only recently began talking with publishers.

How long it will take to reach an agreement with publishers remains to be seen. But Apple’s launch of 90 second song previews in iTunes was reportedly held up for months last year because of negotiations with publishers.

Author Peter Kafka also said that sources in the music industry believe that Apple wants to launch or at least announce its so-called “iCloud” service at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference, starting June 6 in San Francisco. This year’s event is expected to focus on software, and it is not expected that Apple will unveil new iPhone hardware as it has done in years past.

“In Apple’s case, I’m told that the company doesn’t have any theological hurdles to clear with the publishers,” Kafka wrote.

As for the music labels, Apple has been making headway, with deals already reached with Sony Corp., EMI Group, and Warner Music Group. Those agreements would allow users to access song collections from mobile devices via the Internet.

The lone holdout remains Universal Music Group, the largest recording company. But it has also been said that Apple and Universal are close to reaching an agreement.

The Internet-based service is expected to offer more than just music, serving up calendar events, contacts, e-mail and bookmarks. Apple recently acquired the “icloud.com” domain name, suggesting that the company’s current cloud-based service, MobileMe, could be rebranded in the revamp.

Your guess is as good as ours on this one, but let us know what you think and we’ll get the information to you as soon as we get it.

Analyst: iPad 2 constraints easing, supply improving

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Date: Monday, May 23rd, 2011, 03:41
Category: iPad, News

In spite of the Japanese earthquakes and tsunami back in March, iPad 2 production restraints that affected Apple last quarter are said to have “significantly improved,” allowing for improved availability of the tablet.

According to AppleInsider, Analyst Shaw Wu with Sterne Agee said Friday that Apple has found better yields in iPad 2 production through retooling and conversion of more overseas production lines. These changes have gone a long way in addressing the supply issues Apple experienced last quarter.

Wu also cautioned that Apple is along way from meeting its internal goals for iPad 2 production. Previous rumors suggested Apple could ship as many as 45 million iPad 2 units this year, though predictions have dropped since Apple’s last quarter fell short of expectations for iPad sales.

“From our understanding, [Apple] still has a ways to hit the [second half] goal of 3-4 million units per month but getting closer,” Wu wrote.

Accordingly, Wu has increased his estimates for iPad sales in the current, third fiscal quarter of 2011 for Apple. He now sees the company selling 6.8 million iPads, up from his previous prediction of 5.9 million.

Wu also increased his estimated iPhone sales to 17 million, up from 16 million. He said iPhone demand appears to be holding up better than expected, thanks to strong adoption of the white iPhone 4 and strong sales on Verizon.

Wu also increased his projected Mac sales to 3.9 million from the quarter, up from 3.83 million. He is also assuming a new, higher gross margin of 39%, increased from 38.3%, due to improved iPad yields and higher iPhone sales.

Finally, he’s also increased Sterne Agee’s 12-month price target for AAPL stock to $460, up from the previous prediction of US$445.

So, if you want an iPad 2, odds are the one you want should be available.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.