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Apple Store 2.0 uses the iPad 2 as interactive retail sign

Apple has whipped back the curtains on the world's Apple Stores, unveiling the Apple Store 2.0, in which iPads replace conventional retail signs.

Apple has whipped back the curtains on the world's Apple Stores to reveal the Apple Store 2.0, but not, sadly, the iPhone 4S, iPhone 5 or iPhone Jobs-O-Tron 2011.

The new-look Apple Stores have done away with signs telling you about products, replacing them with iPads that act as interactive price tags. The Apple tablets, known as Smart Signs, are encased in plastic next to the display products, and allow you to compare and customise models. If you need help, you can press a button on the iPad and an assistant will dash to your aid.

Employees are already armed with an app on the iPod touch that lets them take your payment without you having to queue for a till.

The use of Smart Signs means the information on display is always up-to-date, and you can look up other pertinent details too, such as iPhone calling plans. The use of iPads seems rather ostentatious, though -- only Apple would nail its flagship product to the desk for mere retail spadework.

It's kind of exclusionary, too. If you can't figure out how to work an iPad, you're evidently not good enough to buy Apple products.

The Apple Store turned 10 last week, with the first shops having opened a decade ago in Virginia and California. The new system, unveiled in celebration of the momentous milestone, was shrouded in secrecy, leading us to speculate wildly that a new product was about to hit the shelves.

Ten years down the line, there are now more than 300 Apple Stores. Click here for our tour of the largest Apple Store in the world, and find out what it's like to work in an Apple Store.

Have you been in an Apple Store yet and tried out the new system? Is this the future of retail, or just showing off? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Image:  Josh Lowensohn/CNET.com