August 6, 2012
Apple Stores: Brilliant Branding but a New Product Speed Bump

Apple TV is an aberration from every other Apple product. Rather than
being an all-in-one device, Apple TV is a component that plugs into
televisions manufactured by others. Apple, therefore, cannot control the
entire experience and thus the overall experience isn’t that good. This
is why you don’t see people camped outside for days waiting for the
newest Apple TV.

The next and most obvious frontier for Apple is
building an actual TV. This is definitely on the company’s mind; CEO Tim
Cook was quite cagey when asked
about his company’s plans at D10. An Apple TV set is technically
feasible. Apple knows how to make beautiful large screens; the 27-inch
iMac is a great example. And Apple knows how to take an existing product
and totally reinvent it.

So if it isn’t technology, creativity
or desire, what is holding Apple back from bringing a TV to market? My
guess: Retail square footage. By most measures, Apple’s move into retail
was brilliant. Retail enabled Apple to control the customer experience,
and thus its brand. This is difficult to achieve when selling through
independent channels like Best Buy or Staples. But the drawback is
limited space for additional - and significantly larger - products like a
line of TV sets.

According to,
the average Apple store is 7,886 sq ft. While I don’t have the exact
figures, my guess is that the median is much smaller because there are
handful of flagship stores at 20,000+ square feet and then hundreds of
smaller footprints in regional malls. Either way, one thing is certain:
the stores are cramped. Finding floor space to display 15 TVs ranging
from 27 to 60-inches, plus hundreds of units of inventory, is no easy

Big Box retailers will be better equipped to distribute an
Apple TV. Since they already have space for TVs, it is simply a matter
of taking space from a poor selling brand. Apple doesn’t have this
luxury. Sure, Apple will no longer be selling the Apple TV “puck” but
that will hardly make a dent in the space required.

Retail square
footage will continue to be a hurdle. Apple, I predict, will enter the
3D printing market. Currently, there is a huge valley between hobbyist
and enterprises. Thirty-six years ago, Apple was founded to fill a
similar valley in computing. Today, Apple is the best equipped company
to deliver to the masses a beautiful 3D printer and a “Blueprint Store.”
To do this, though, Apple Stores will require significantly more square

In summary, Apple’s move into retail was a branding
homerun. But on the downside, the company now has less flexibility to
bring new, physical products to market without simultaneously investing
in retail expansion.

Jon Steiman is the CEO & Co-Founder of Spottah
You can find this post, as well as additional content on his blog
located here.  You can also follow Jon on Twitter (@jonsteiman) by clicking here.