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Apple's biggest launch of the year may have been last week

Commentary: You may have missed it. Even when I tell you about it, you could think it's not important. But it just might be.

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


You missed this Apple event?

Apple/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

It's all about the iPhone 8, right?

Oh, some new MacBooks would be nice, and a new iPad or two would lift the spirits.

But when the new iPhone comes out, that's when you'll be clear about Apple's (latest) new direction. Or will you?

Last week, Apple unveiled its Today at Apple concept. This involves concerts and free classes at Apple stores. Its spirit is to entice you in, not to buy products but to be part of the brand, and to allow the brand to be part of you.

It's hard to overstate how important this actually may be, because it's an example of Apple anticipating the world as it's becoming, not as it is or was.

Look at the Today at Apple ad launched last week and you won't see one instance of selling and buying.

As online purchase becomes normal for just about every product on earth, the concept of a physical store ceases to revolve around basic transactions.

When it comes to Apple products, they're written about so much that many people feel as if they know them long before they touch them. Many will touch them for the first time when the products arrive on their doorsteps.

So what will the stores now be for? For everything that happens when you're not buying the product. They'll exist to bind you to the brand on a more consistent basis, not just when a new iPhone launches or your old iPhone needs fixing.

They'll exist to make you believe Apple isn't a brand that sells products, but a club to which you've purchased membership.

Forget the old concept of the Apple fanperson. This is something more sophisticated, longer-lasting and more regular. You won't be a fan. You'll be a member. Fans are excitable, fickle even. Members have a certain status and permanence.

Apple said on its last earnings call that its services business enjoyed an 18 percent revenue rise. This includes such things as Apple Pay, iCloud and the App Store.

These aren't cyclical business like iPhones and iPads, which are so heavily swayed by new launches. So now its stores will be an even greater part of Apple's overall service.

That service doesn't just comprise buying things or even fixing them. It offers you inspiration, camaraderie and many other emotional benefits of membership. Soon, Apple will find ways to make you pay a little for it, of course. You'll hardly feel a thing.

Americans increasingly want to spend money on experiences, not things. Apple understands that by offering more experiential brick and mortar outlets, it's anticipating a trend that's left many physical retail establishments, and shopping malls as a whole, far behind.

Apple can have only so many product events every year. Its stores, however, can be a venue for events every month, every week, every day. Those happenings can involve and bind in a way that TV ads and other forms of hype just can't anymore.

Look back in a few years' time and I fancy you'll find that this launch seems like the stamp of a new direction, one in which people's relationship with Apple materially changed, far more than it did with the launch of the iPhone 8.

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