Is Apple About To Go Mainstream

Apple will open its fourth store in Australia in Queensland’s Gold Coast this Saturday, just in time for Mother’s Day. A few news outlets ran the story, which no doubt excited Apply acolytes that live in the area.

Apple make products that people want, of that there is no doubt. They have not suffered under the current credit crisis, with both revenue and profit up the first quarter this year, which proves they have a solid customer base.

What I find interesting is that the fact they open a store and it makes the mainstream news. When its first store opened in Sydney’s’ CBD, not only did it make the mainstream media outlets such as the radio, newspaper and online, but also got some TV spots. I am aware that I was outside the store at 6am talking to Apple fans and conducting a live cross for Channel 9’s Today Show. However when you think about it, how many other store openings make such a headline, and why is it even news?

The question is rhetorical. I know why. Steve Jobs is a very smart man. First, he has branded his products not only to look smart and engaging, but he also tries to make sure that they are at the leading edge of technology. The original iPod and iPhones are examples of Apple being one step ahead of the rest. Second, and probably the thing that has made the company, is the aurora it has created around Apple products – a kind of mystique – whether it be one-off advertisements (Apple’s famous Macintosh ad of 1984 that ran at half time of the Superbowl and never ran again), or their position that they will engage with the media only in their exact own way in their own terms. It is a blueprint that has paid off, with the technology media especially following the company’s every move.

I make these statements because an interesting story crossed my desk a couple of days ago. There is a rumour that Apple will start producing sub US$500 notebooks by the end of the year, which is interesting because Jobs has gone on record that any netbook below that price point is probably not a very good product.

Does this mean Jobs has finally relinquished control of the company? And if so, what does the future hold? With his innovative marketing skills and left-of-centre thinking gone, will Apple soon fall into the mainstream? And in that case, will the announcement of Apple stores openings become passe to the mainstream media? We’ll find out soon enough…But until then, I wish Apple would hurry up and announce the next iPhone!