The whole experience of an Apple Store is absolutely spot on. All of the great creative and business thinkers from Kevin Roberts and Seth Godin all the way to Tom Peters have already either written, spoken or Blogged about what life is like when you walk into an Apple Store.
It's as much about fashion as it is about technology. It's as much about connecting as it is about the power of knowledge. An Apple Store really does "get" the customer. The first one I walked into was mid-day, mid-week in a not-so-central part of Florida. Most of the stores were barren and you could almost smell the muzak of That's What Friends Are For, but man were things jumping in the Apple Store.
People were checking out iPods, hanging out at the bar, trying to figure out if they should get a laptop or desktop as a handful of teenagers looked at all of the funky accessories. I had to lean over the shoulders, about two rows deep, to catch a glimpse of the iPod Nano.
Essentially, this store is way more about community than technology. The same way that Starbucks is more about community than coffee.
As a longtime IBM ThinkPad user, I do get tempted by the PowerBook when I step foot into an Apple Store. It's also remarkable how they seamlessly connect you to the website, packaging, hardware, software and peripherals - a truly integrated brand (two words I thought I would never use in my Blog).
Apple is a super brand. My hopes are that in five years they can maintain. I would hate to see an Apple Store look like a Sharper Image store does today.