A Glimpse of the Future from 15 Years Ago

Fifteen years ago this week, Steve Jobs gave this pre-opening tour of the first Apple Store in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia.

If I said to you in 2001 that Apple Stores would become the fastest growing boutique store concept in retailing, that in the future the presence of an Apple Store would be the best indicator of mall viability, and that millions of people would visit Apple Stores to buy handheld devices that not only redefined their relationship with technology, but also became the primary means of conducting large parts of their business and personal lives, you probably would have called me crazy.

I probably wouldn’t have believed it myself.

And yet, looking at this video posted on YouTube, you have to admit that almost every aspect of the Apple Store concept that Steve Jobs shared with us is still alive and well today.

Sure there are a few differences. The iPhone didn’t launch for another six years, and no one could have predicted its impact on the product mix at Apple Stores in the future.

As a result of the iPhone, Apple no longer needs to carry video cameras or digital cameras. The iPhone subsumed those devices.

The significant floor space devoted to boxed software is also gone from Apple Stores. The App Store for iOS and Mac OS X is where we look for software these days.

But the vast majority of the concepts Steve showed in 2001, the display space in the front of the store totally devoted to Apple products, the Genius Bar, the areas of the store where solutions are displayed with Apple products and now services being at the center of the solution, all of that still exists and has stood the test of time.

The Apple Store, showing people the possibility of a new technology-centric lifestyle, probably did more to make those of us who work in technology part of the mainstream than any other recent societal evolution. Now even if building software– we call them apps today– doesn’t make you rich, it makes you one of the cool people in the eyes of your kids and their friends.

Thank you Apple. Thank you Steve. Thank you Ron Johnson for making the dreams of so many come true.

My friend Dave Mark from The Loop reminded us of this anniversary this morning, so I can’t take credit for the idea. But I can talk about it.