The Good Ole Days of the Genius Bar

Many years ago, Apple introduced a very innovative service delivery system, at the time Macintosh and iPods called the Genius Bar. Without poking fun at these people or the concept thereof, this is how Apple mastered the concept of “repairing relationships” between the customer and their Mac or Apple.

The Genius Bar from the outside looking in looked like a very clean space-aged service center. But the hidden gem was behind the bar table. There were MacBooks that were stored in the shelves below the table. Also were Gigabit Ethernet cables to have the Macs go behind the doors in their little data centers that possibly had Xserves running NetBoot services to load various support images. Mini operating systems that can troubleshoot more than you can hit Option-R at bootup or the Apple Hardware Test discs you got with your Mac at the time. A Genius told me around 2010 when a hard drive failed on my older MacBook that the Genius Bar has their own secret software that the software division never had access to. (Of course the software division is a shadow of it’s former self today.)

Other things included Avaya telephones underneath their own drawers to call Apple or other parties (later Cisco in some locations as Apple is also not following Steve’s lead of his love to Avaya Red systems); barcode scanners to get the serial numbers to create cases; printers for consent to repair; etc.

I didn’t fall into iDevice bandwagon until late 2011 when I got my first generation Verizon iPhone 4. Never had experienced such support. Also iPods also were common tools of their trade. Again in their own drawers like a Craftsman tool. This was also to help diagnose problems if say NetBoot failed or what have you. Most often my MacBook was serviced via iPods and disk images partitioned on them (because you can actually on non iOS iPods partition the device much like you can with whatever bootable image you want. Hell, you could use it as an external hard drive if you chose to!

Something changed a few years back.

Around three years ago, Apple had ditched the bar and replaced it with the generic tables that used to sell additional Apple products near the back of many Apple Stores. This was a phased process that went globally. Store officials claimed “market research” believed that a Genius working side by side with the customer was more engaging. But not having the tools nearby wouldn’t solve problems immediately.

This also followed the time when Apple had pulled the plug on Xserve servers, so these same machines that could help a customer disappeared. I guess Apple has good SLAs with local data telco providers to provide as much gigabit Internet they can so they can recover OS X installs over the cloud!

Imagine how much bandwidth Apple themselves have to do to upgrade, repair and stuff and be dependent on the grid. And I heard that Apple’s cloud services run partially on Azure… go figure!

But the biggest change to the Genius Bar was the change to become a profit center for Apple Stores. Instead of fixing computers – even if they were “vintage”, the Genius could lure a customer into buying a new Mac or phone or tablet. And who could blame them as these “devices” have really no way to troubleshoot since the FireWire is gone, the wired Ethernet port is been laid off and who knows if USB will be supported in future models that will require it to be tossed because the mandatory Bluetooth and wireless charging will be the future.

I don’t feel it’s appropriate to speculate what Apple has done differently. Beating a dead horse has already been speculated, and people like Louis Rossman spends his days on YouTube lecturing the audience about how bad Apple products are. I could say the same thing about Microsoft you angry guy from Brooklyn!

I will say this. If you couldn’t handle the neutering of OS X since Yosemite; any hardware up till 2012 on the desktops and 2013 for the MacBooks are nice. Any of the post 2008 “Unibody” MacBooks are more service friendly than the earlier generations, and since the MacBook Pro’s design prior to the unibody was based on the years old PowerBook G4 series, just a few differences of ports; I’d say those were the best. MacBook Airs are great if you’re on the road and doing things that don’t need heavy lifting. They run on Intel and have EFI and backwards BIOS support for PC operating systems. Pixar even has MacBooks that run off Red Hat Linux! I guess Mister Linux also uses a MacBook but with his operating system.

Apple is loosing money. People are going green and going in the grey market to get what they want. A Mac that was once known that “just works”. This is why I got my white MacBook Pro 7,1 and also to run my legacy non cloud dependent apps on Snow Leopard. Apple giving up on the server market was like a suicide; and while I could argue there is a market for the trash can MacPro; I still think the old model that had expandability is winning customers at HP with their Z line workstations and customers going to Windows 10, which is just such a joke.

Apple needs to reconsider what they are doing if they want continued dominance in professional or everyguy computing. Going to the “casual” fans is the wrong way.