A reader writes:
Oh come now, Andrew. It's a store, not a church. Though if you are implying that Christianity might benefit from a slicker marketing campaign and more broadly appealing products well, then, what wouldn't?
But to the point: the Apple store is not meant to elevate or inspire; it's meant to move product, and Apple does that brilliantly. You have bought into the myth that somehow all of the Apple products are superior to their competitors. Not at all.
Exhibit A, look at the iPhone. Great gadget, lots of fun, but one of the worst phones I have ever used. Dropped calls, garbled conversations with people in buildings I could see from where I was standing. By contrast, the Droid phones rock as telephones, and are pretty close on all of the other stuff.
I'm not saying Apple's stuff isn't good or fun, but where Apple has truly been brilliant is by keeping everything cozy and insular, and by appealing to the broadest consumer base possible by making its products the easiest to use (though easiest does not mean best). Apple has created this world of products, and has connected them in a way that makes each product seem familiar (reminds me of Microsoft Office). The Apple consumer can sit back in the bubble and have all the toys connected and sync up up with iTunes and the iStore and the apps. It's all very easy and familiar, making it comforting to the consumer. The experience is comforting by virtue of its familiarity and consistency. That doesn't mean it will be the best experience, just the most risk averse while holding to some minimum standard of quality.
Another links to Umberto Eco's "Mac is Catholic, DOS is Protestant" essay and writes:
Just admit it; you love Apple because it appeals to your Catholic background.
I've complained about the iPhone myself. But if those translucent, airy, elegant stores do not evoke a secular kind of church, then I don't know what does. And I'd add a rather Postrel point here: style is also a product, in some ways the most sublime and mysterious of products. And nothing beats Apple's style.
(Above decal available at Etsy)