Boston's new Apple Store is made its press debut on a morning of peerless sunshine. The light streams through a vast skylight of tempered glass. The daylight scatters through the glass spiral staircase beneath, rebounds off gray granite floors and gray aluminum walls. Echoes of light seem to fill the place, making the electric lights seem almost unnecessary.
Behold the halo effect, Apple's best friend. At the brink of death a decade ago, Apple's now the company that can do no wrong. The company has earned its gleaming reputation with products like the iPod, the iPhone, and the MacBook Air--devices powerful and beautiful in equal measure.
Each floor of Apple's largest retail store in the United States is stocked with devices to gawk at, try out, and play with -- Macs and related accessories on the first floor, iPods and their accessories on the second floor, and a third floor devoted to services like the Genius Bar. All are connected by a spiral glass staircase at the center of the store.
The biggest-name celebrity at the press opening was Mayor Thomas M. Menino (left). While he admired the gadgets, he didn't try any out -- he occasionally surfs the web, but doesn't own his own computer, hopping onto his wife's when he needs an Internet fix. But this is the guy who didn't become a convert to bicycling until deep into his mayoralty, and has now become an ardent cyclist. So maybe Apple will show the mayor the way.
Time and again, Apple serves up features like touch-screen controls that seem unnecessary, irrelevant -- until you try them. Apple vice president Ron Johnson says the new store's "green roof" is that kind of innovation. A rectangle of lush grass surrounds the skylight. This lucky reporter was taken up to see it; store customers never will, unless they look down at it from a room in one of the nearby hotels.
So what's the point? Johnson admits he has no idea whether growing grass on the roof will make the store more of a friend to nature, or compensate for the megawatts of electricity consumed by over a hundred Mac computers. But, he said, if other new buildings adopt the same policy, it just might add up.
Perhaps. In the meantime, the lawn upstairs will certainly aid the sales environment downstairs, as ecologically-minded consumers clamor to buy from a company that cares. Whatever the benefit to the Boston atmosphere, the grass roof certainly helps buff up the halo.
(By Hiawatha Bray, Globe staff)