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Post of the Day
July 1, 1999

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Subject: Dancing in the isles of SEARS
Author: iAAPLguy

This long, but exciting (IMHO)

(also crossposted at TMF:S - Sears, Roebuck, and Co.)

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It just keeps getting better ...

Today at lunch I decided to stop by our local Sears (Memorial City Mall, Houston, Texas) and see for myself how the iMac was faring there. I didn't have positive expectations, what with the recent disaster of the iMac at Best Buy and some early reports I've read about Sears and the iMac.

So upstairs I head to the electronics department. A blueberry iMac is prominently displayed on an end cap with an ice & blue Epson 740i attached to it. Next to the iMac is a display with the Yummy poster. Stacked next to the iMac are boxes with a USB ZIP drive, an Imation SuperDisk, and a couple of Kensington USB mice. Farther down the isle is a section with additional USB stuff - not a lot, but better than none at all.

The iMac is up and running! A young boy is sitting at it moving Lara Croft across a subterranean landscape. This is good - a working iMac, nice display, and a selection of peripherals. I pause to watch the boy and then move off to look at audio CD recorders.

While looking at the CD recorders, I ponder the psyche of the Mac evangelist - people who walk into stores on their days off, at lunch, or in the evenings, starting up dead Macs, cleaning up the Mac desktop, answering questions that the sales staff can't or won't answer. People who stop by at lunch just to see how the iMac is selling. What other computer or consumer product elicits this kind of a fan club? Of course I don't fit in this category ... I'm here as an AAPL investor just checking out the sales potential (yeah, right :-).

So rather than appear to be a member the lunatic Mac fringe to a potentially anti-Mac sales person (I still remember Best Buy), I decide to just keep my mouth shut and head back to work. The boy who was playing Tomb Raider has moved off the iMac to the PCs now and a young salesman is restarting the continuous Mac demo. I start to walk past, but ... oh, what the heck? ;-) So I nod in the direction of the iMac and ask casually "What do you think of it?"

"I like it. If you're a first time computer buyer this is THE computer for you. Easy to set up, easy to use, and it's fast."

"Really?" I ask.

"Yeah" he answers. "In fact, even though this is only a 333 MHz machine, we tested it next to a 500 MHz Pentium III and the graphics response looked as good or better. It really surprised all of us". He then proceeds to fire up the QuickTime StarWars trailer and expand it to full screen size (its QT 3 not 4, but the graphics are still great). He comments on how smooth the movie is and tells me about folks with faster Pentium IIs and IIIs that have problems playing the StarWars trailer without skipping. ... Whoa ... Then he allows that he's a little disappointed with the built in speakers - "they don't sound as good as the external speakers you get with PCs, but you can always add external speakers if you want better sound." ... Double whoa ... positive AND balanced. Wait - it gets better.

He starts to tell me about the other features. How USB is true plug and play that lets you add peripherals without the need to open the case. How the iMac ships with ethernet making it cable modem - ready for high speed internet access as soon as it becomes available (the i stands for internet he informs me). How it comes with a standard modem that lets you get on the internet minutes after opening the box. It gets better still.

So I play dumb. "Will it run Windows programs?" I ask. Doesn't even phase him. "Yes, in two ways - many Windows applications come in Mac versions or you can get Virtual PC or SoftWindows to run older PC software." He tells me that more and more game developers are coming out with Mac versions before or at least at the same time as the Windows version. He added that Virtual PC or SoftWindows does require additional RAM to run efficiently. He then went into considerable detail talking about Microsoft Office for the Mac, Internet Explorer, and Outlook Express.

I notice that there is a Window's-like task bar complete with a Start button (but with the Mac logo) at the bottom of the iMac screen. I comment/ask about the Start button. He tells me its a shareware program that can be downloaded in minutes off the internet (I knew that, but off hand I forget the name of it). "We put it on to make people feel more comfortable with the iMac". Clever.

I play dumber still. "Where's the floppy drive?" I ask. A smile breaks on his face. "There isn't one. Apple is the first of many computer manufactures to drop the floppy. The floppy just doesn't hold enough data. But there isn't a standard for large capacity removable disks. If Apple put a ZIP drive in the iMac and the SuperDisk became the standard you'd be stuck with old technology and vice versa if Apple put in the SuperDisk." He shows me the boxes for each stacked next to the iMac. With USB you can add whatever you need or want. He also makes a special point of telling me that the SuperDisk is all white - "ice" - and that regardless of color all iMacs have an "ice" colored screen and that the SuperDisk is a color match regardless of the color iMac you get. Very Clever. This guy is sharp.

I grab the mouse. "This is a funky mouse." I say. "Yea, I don't much care for it. A lot of people get an attachment for it" he motions with his hand to show where the extender would connect "or they get a different mouse" he picks up the Kensington USB mouse box. He doesn't get flustered or defensive. He acknowledges my concern and offers several other options.

It gets better - MUCH better.

"How are they selling?" I ask casually. "Surprisingly well," he answers. "We sell 2-3 iMacs for every PC we sell. That's including all the other makes of PCs we sell - combined." His emphasis. "We sell them as fast as they come in."

I look at my watch. "Oops gotta go, thanks for your time," and I leave.

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OK - so this is only one example, at one Sears, with one salesperson, but whoa - this is good.

Sharp, knowledgeable, enthusiastic salespeople providing informed, balanced information about the iMac. He doesn't try to push me toward a PC, but he never says anything negative about them (maybe he can sell me a PC if I don't want an iMac?). In fact he was always positive in his approach to any of the questions or concerns I had. This is excellent salesmanship - very refreshing.

iMacs selling 2-3 times that of the PCs.

iMacs selling so fast they can't keep them in stock.

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If I didn't already have two iMacs I might have bought one from him then an there - if they were in stock. I must stop back after the rumored next generation iMac or the consumer portable come out.

It just keeps getting better ...