Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is hoping to school its customers -- in a good way. The world's most valuable consumer-tech company began offering Today at Apple experiences at its namesake stores this week. The classes and workshops cover everything from coding to computer-assisted art sessions.
Apple is no stranger to turning its 495 stores into classrooms. It has offered introductory courses covering its products and platforms for years. Today at Apple is more evolutionary than revolutionary. However, by offering more conventional sessions -- and offering more themed nights like Teacher Tuesday and Kids Hour -- Apple is hoping to woo consumers beyond the ones that are just starting out on one of its products. It's brilliant, and in a week that began with investors getting giddy as the stock hit another all-time high, it's a savvy development that isn't generating a lot of attention.
Apple announced the new initiative last month, but Recode is reporting that Today at Apple officially launched on Tuesday. Turning the educational component of its stores into town halls for higher learning is believed to be the handiwork of Angela Ahrendts, leaving her imprint on the chain of stores. Ahrendts was CEO at Burberry until 2014, when she left to head up Apple's retail arm.
Today at Apple is brilliant. There's little downside to the push, outside of the investment to outfit its stores with new mobile screens to enhance the sessions. The upside is substantial. At the very least, it makes Apple's free workshops cool. Before this week's tweak, Apple's in-store sessions attracted first-time iPhone owners or folks looking for tips on creating music through GarageBand or editing videos on iMovie. Today at Apple is tossing out a wider net, and this is where things start to get interesting.
Let's say you have an interest in photography. There's no shortage of online courses or night school classes available locally. YouTube tutorials are always a free click away. However, Apple's new sessions offer an interesting approach. There are six "how to" courses covering aspects including shooting and editing. More advanced smartphone shutterbugs can opt for Photo Walks, where participants leave the stores to hit area subjects to delve into lighting and storytelling.
Apple now has the means for folks to make the Apple Store a bigger part of their free time, and keeping them close and coming to its stores will make it that much easier for Apple to expose them to all of the shiny new gadgetry and updates that it will be rolling out in the years to come. Today at Apple generates demand at a time when its stock price is making promises its fundamentals will have to keep. Apple shares have soared 62% over the past year -- up 32% in 2017 alone -- and revenue has posted year-to-year declines in back-to-back quarters. Investors are bidding Apple up in anticipation of what will happen in the future, particularly when it rolls out its new iPhone 8 later this year.
Folks will line up outside Apple Stores when the new smartphone marking the 10th anniversary of the iPhone is introduced. Today at Apple may keep folks coming before and after, when there are no hot products to introduce. Apple's getting smarter about making consumers smarter, and that's -- well -- smart business.