Apple stores get major makeover

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) unveiled its newest store design this weekend and the realization of retail chief Angela Ahrendts' vision for Apple's stores going forward. That vision includes becoming a bigger part of the local environment.

The two-story flagship in San Francisco's Union Square comes 15 years after the company's original store opened in the city.

"We are not just evolving our store design, but its purpose and greater role in the community as we educate and entertain visitors and serve our network of local entrepreneurs," Ahrendts said in a statement.

Central to the new store concept is the notion of community.

"We have a deep commitment to the cities we work in, and are aware of the importance that architecture plays in the community," said Jonathan Ive, Apple's chief design officer. "It all starts with the storefront – taking transparency to a whole new level – where the building blends the inside and the outside, breaking down barriers and making it more egalitarian and accessible."

To that end, the building serves to connect Union Square on one side to Post Street on the other. The intent is to serve as a gathering space, complete with an art-filled plaza with seating, public Wi-Fi and a 50-foot tall "green wall." The space will also host live musical performances.

The store itself features 42-foot tall sliding glass doors with living trees inside. The area, called "Genius Grove," is where customers can work with Apple Geniuses in a nature-based setting.

An interactive wall dubbed "The Avenue" is intended to bring available products and services to life on a series of screens resembling windows. New "Creative Pros" serve as experts in creative arts and offer advice on products relating to music, art and photography.

"The Forum" is a gathering space complete with a giant ultra-high resolution video screen. It's home to "Today at Apple," where the store will host year-round programs in partnership with local experts in the creative arts.

There is also "The Boardroom" dedicated to business users, offering hands-on advice and training.

Apple also announced the opening of a new office in Hyderabad that will focus on the development of Maps for Apple products, both mobile and desktop devices. The investment will accelerate Maps development and create up to 4,000 jobs, according to the company.

Apple is also rumored to be planning its first stores in India, including a concept focused on selling pre-owned iPhones.

For more:
- see this Apple announcement
- see this Apple press release
- see AppleInsider story