CNET también está disponible en español.

Ir a español

Don't show this again

HolidayBuyer's Guide
Culture

Is this the end of launch lines at the Apple store?

Technically Incorrect: With the company reportedly encouraging people to order the Apple Watch online, rather than go to stores in hope, will there be no more ritual camping and crowing?

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


lines6.jpg
What will happen to the happy campers? CNET/YouTube

When eras end, fear and sadness prevail.

We mutter morosely that these times will never be again, as we realize that we are getting old. We fear, too, that there will now be a void that we can only fill with our very sadness.

And so it is that some, I imagine, fear the demise of the Apple store launch line. This is an event where, for countless years, humans have pitched tents, while pitching themselves as avant-garde modern heroes.

They wait for days to clasp a white Apple box and turn to the assembled TV cameras with a gesture of triumph, as they lift it on high.

Might this ritual now be in jeopardy? Tuesday morning, reports suggested that the company is encouraging its polo-clad staff to sell the concept of online orders for its new Apple Watch as well as its MacBook.

A memo purportedly written by Apple's new retail head, Angela Ahrendts, supposedly declared: "The days of waiting in line and crossing fingers for a product are over for our customers."

She might as well have written: "Honestly, peeps, there's nothing wrong with Best Buy."

Worse, Apple has already announced that on launch day later this month its stores will only be catering to those who have ordered a Watch in advance.

But what about the faithful who didn't realize? How will they react to the notion that their tent-pitching will be no more useful than a fork to eat consomme?

Can it possibly be that, come April 24, Apple stores will simply have another brisk day, as people waft in politely at their appointed times? This wouldn't be Apple. This would be Tiffany or Gucci having a 50-percent-off moment.

I fear the passion of those some refer to as iSheep will not subside. I fear there will still be lines, loitering and loud screams of abandon (and then pain) when the store doors open.

I fear there will still be TV cameras and trophy-posing. Worse, I fear there will be people unboxing their new watches on the street and showing them off, almost catwalk-style.

The habits of the frenzied and dependent aren't easily broken. Their emotions won't be dampened by a simple suggestion from church headquarters.

Apple's explanation is that customers need time for a fitting when they arrive. They need to be reassured that their shaved wrists will be perfectly adorned, with no skin-pinching or tone-clashing.

The Wall Street Journal theorizes that the Watch may provide a necessary lift to Apple store sales, which were only up 6 percent in the last fiscal year.

On launch day, it would therefore be very dull if there was a peculiarly subdued atmosphere. I wonder how many preorders Apple has allowed for each store. Will there be enough to still create lines beyond your local Old Navy?

And what of future launches? Is this a dry run for an end to roadside salivation? Is this a forceful hint that Apple intends to drift toward the fashion house life of shows and sighs, rather than lines and ululating?

The world is on the verge of a major historical event that might mark a significant cultural shift. Can humanity possibly be prepared for this?