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The Magic Is Gone

I remember around ten years ago, whenever I was near an Apple Store, I just had to go. If I was visiting family in Pittsburgh, I had to visit the Apple Store. If I was around Syracuse, if I was in Philadelphia, wherever. If there was an Apple Store nearby, I had to take the time to visit, even if just for a little bit.

From my earliest days with Apple products, in 2004, I’ve always been 2-3 hours from the nearest Apple Store.

But the products felt so cool during that era. The idea of having a half an hour or so with the entire lineup was too much to pass up.

I’d check out every MacBook they offered and chat with my wife (then girlfriend) about which one struck the right balance for my needs. I’d check out the Mac Mini, each iMac, and the Mac Pro and have an internal debate about which one I’d buy if money was no object. Even after leaving the store, I’d spend the rest of the day thinking about my dream setup.

I’d check out the latest iPods, iPads, iPhone, and browse through all of the accessories. Sometimes I’d leave with something — a new pair of headphones, a power adapter, or the like — and sometimes I’d leave completely empty handed.

Today, though, I can’t remember the last time I even went to an Apple Store. It was probably before 2020 and it was more than likely because I actually needed to go there for something. The last time I made a point to go to the Apple Store just to browse was probably a year or two prior.

The magic of Apple’s retail stores is gone.

Part of that is because Apple products are a bit more accessible in my area now. I can go to my local Target or Walmart and toy around with the Apple Watch, iPhone, and iPads on display. If I want to check out a new Mac, the local Best Buy carries a good portion of those.

But even more so, Apple’s products aren’t really exciting to me anymore. Most of what they release is a relatively minor iteration over the previous version. Sometimes with, what feels like, downgrades compared to the previous model. I’m looking at you, Action Button.

“But what about the Vision Pro”, you’re invariably asking? Well, that product isn’t appealing to me in the slightest. I have no interest in augmented or virtual reality. I consider it to be more akin to 3D television or motion controls in games. Neither of those will necessarily go away entirely — they will rise and fall in popularity over time, but they’ll never be the predominant medium or even a major player.

Maybe I’ll eat my words, but I don’t expect the Vision Pro or any other AR/VR computing product to ever be much more than a novelty device.

Outside of the lack of excitement for Apple’s new products, though, there are obviously other factors that have an impact.

I’m at a different part of my life now than I was ten years ago. My wife and I have started a family, I have a great job, and with that comes a bit more disposable income and a lot less free time. I can often just buy products that I would have, previously, had to save for.

And the lack of time means that I’m unable to obsess over all of the little details of an announcement. Or read through every line of the product pages and press releases. All of the things that built excitement for actually getting my hands on the products.

All of this isn’t a bad thing, of course. There are the clear benefits of spending time with family instead of caring so much about the products of a former computer company.

I think the lack of excitement in folks like me represents an opportunity for another company to build something truly neat. To get people excited and start making waves in the consumer electronics industry.

Valve’s Steam Deck and the recent explosion of retro emulation handhelds from Retroid, Anbernic, and others immediately comes to mind. There’s a lot to be excited about in that market.

But I’m hoping for something bigger. Something that will give me the same feeling I got from Apple in the late 2000s. The type of feeling that will have me going out of my way to spend a few minutes with a new product in a retail store.

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