Steve Jobs’ last big project is finally ready for the public — but you have to go to Cupertino to see it.
I’m talking, of course, about Apple’s famed “spaceship” campus. Though employees moved in months ago, and Apple launched the iPhone X in the newly minted Steve Jobs Theatre, none of the campus has been open to the public — until now.
On Friday, Apple officially opened the doors of Apple Park’s Visitor Center — the public face of the company’s storied new headquarters — and the Apple faithful were there in full force to savor the moment.
When Apple opened the doors to the space, which includes a retail space, coffee shop and roof deck, the first visitors breezed right past tables full of iPhone Xs, Apple Watches, and MacBooks and instead headed straight for a wall of Apple-branded T-shirts, baby onesies, tote bags, and postcards.
Like the retail store at Apple’s old Infinite Loop headquarters, the swag at Apple Park is a far cry from brightly-colored tchotchkes and T-shirts with cheeky sayings (e.g. “I visited the Apple Campus. But that’s all I’m allowed to say”) that filled Apple’s old company store.
Instead, there are a handful of $40 tees emblazoned with either a simple Apple logo or that of Apple Park. The ones with the retro, rainbow Apple logo were particularly popular — employees were restocking the shelves within the first hour of the store’s opening.
There are also Apple tote bags ($25), baby onesies ($20) and, curiously, plain black and white hats ($40). I say plain, but, of course, they’re much more than that. A special collaboration between Apple and New Era, the caps were designed without the top button most hats have in order to better accommodate Beats headphones.
For the truly hardcore fans, there are $20 packs of postcards featuring Apple products old and new, from iPhones and Apple Watches to the candy-colored iBooks. Or, you can opt to buy a smaller, $10 set of “memory cards,” also emblazoned with classic Apple gear. I’m not actually sure what these are for — they look like playing cards, even though they aren’t — but people will likely scoop them up anyway.
The retail area is flanked on either side by a cafe and an open “exhibition space.” The cafe has a large espresso bar that also serves a handful of snacks, but no drip coffee. There are no menus or cash registers, just a handful of iPads, which serve both purposes.
The cafe is roomy with lots of seating both inside and out. (Just don’t try to do anything other than sit in the cafe chairs — at one point during my tour, an overzealous photographer attempted to stand on one, only to have an Apple employee rush over and admonish him, muttering that “these are $1,000 chairs.”)
On the far end of the visitor space is an open “exhibition area,” home to a large 3D model of the “spaceship” HQ. Apple doesn’t let the public into the spaceship, but, thanks to the model, they can explore the grounds via an augmented reality iPad app.
Hold the iPad in front of the model and the app will let you “look inside” Apple Park, exploring everything from its office space and grounds to its parking garage and cafeteria. (Yes, these iPads also carry special Apple Park-specific branding.)
For a more IRL look at the spaceship, visitors can head up the imported Italian stone stairs to the roof deck, which overlooks the campus’ main building.
That all may sound like nothing more than an extra-fancy Apple Store, and, in many ways, it is. But for Apple, it’s about much more than that.
Sure, it’s an “architectural extension of the new campus” (one they can conveniently share with those more than happy to fork over 40 bucks for an Apple-designed ball cap). But it’s also an opportunity show off obsessive design and attention to detail worthy of Steve Jobs.