Hundreds greet Apple's new store in Palo Alto

The store marks a new home for Apple retail in the heart of Silicon Valley

A queue of several hundred people, snaking around the block, greeted Apple's new store in Palo Alto, California, on Saturday morning.

Clapping and cheering, now a common sight at Apple store openings, greeted the first customers through the door at 10 a.m.

The store, which was literally under wraps until Saturday's opening, has an all-glass facade and roof and makes a bold statement on Palo Alto's leafy University Avenue. It replaces a store a few minutes away that opened in 2001 as one of Apple's first retail outlets.

(See video of the store, lines and opening on YouTube.)

First in line was Fitzgerald Geonzon, who began queuing at 7 p.m. on Friday evening.

"It's beautiful, it's huge, it's stunning," he said.

Geonzon, from neighboring Menlo Park, said he's been going to Apple's previous store in Palo Alto for at least six years and is looking forward to frequenting the new one.

"I think I'm going to like it a lot," he said.

Apple offered a free t-shirt to the first 1,000 people through the doors on Saturday, but many of those in line probably didn't need the shirt to coax them from their homes. Palo Alto is the heart of Apple territory, its computers often outnumber Windows machines at the city's coffee shops, and many locals have been using the company's computers for years.

Typical of those was the second in line, a man who only gave his first name, Lawrence. He used to teach drums at a music store that occupied the space before Apple moved in. Since 2001, he's been a regular at the Apple store.

"I live in town, I walk downtown on a daily basis, so I've been in that store since it's been open. I would wander in there on a daily basis. It become a home away from home for me."

The company's iPhones and iPads dominate the right-hand side of the new store as visitors enter and laptop computers sit on the left. A little further back are the desktop PCs and the rest of Apple's line-up. Accessories hang on some of the walls.

Locals and visitors alike will find the new store more spacious than the previous building and much brighter thanks to the all-glass roof. New at the Palo Alto store, although not new to Apple retail, is a wider Genius Bar where Apple staff sit on the same side of the table as the customers.

Apple is a much different company from when the original store opened in 2001. It was in 2001 that the iPod launched to supplement a product line dominated by computers. The iPhone, Apple's most popular product today, didn't exist and tablet computers were something of an oddity that Microsoft was continually trying to get right.

The change in Apple's business that has pushed phones and tablets to the forefront has had a significant effect on its bottom line.

In 2001, Apple reported a net loss of $25 million on sales of $5.3 billion. In 2011, the company generated a net profit of $26 billion as sales climbed to $108 billion.

In its most recent quarter, Apple reported revenue of $8.2 billion.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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