On Friday, Apple unveiled the new West 14th Street store, its largest store in Manhattan. I had a chance to check out the store yesterday and though at this point we expect Apple stores to be impressive, this one really takes it to the next level. It occupies a corner lot in the trendy Meat Packing district and it features three floors of Apple products and services. One of the coolest aspects of the store is that the third floor is dedicated entirely to service, featuring a huge Genius Bar for repairs. Perhaps more exciting for Aperture users are the new Pro Labs that the store will offer. These are four-part, eight-hour courses covering either Aperture, Final Cut Pro, or Logic Pro. Students will have their own Macs to use during the classes with all the software pre-configured. And get this: they’re free.
This is pretty impressive. With these Pro Labs, Apple can now offer three ways for new Aperture users to learn the software:
There are the instructor-led workshops, where anyone can sit in the audience and listen to a demo-style presentation and ask questions. And there’s “One to One”, in which customers can sign up for one-hour personal training sessions. This was formerly included in the $99/year ProCare service, but was spun off into its own offering a few months ago. Still, $99/year for weekly personal training sessions is a great deal. Even if only one out of ten sessions is truly mind-altering, it’s still 99 bucks a year. Most Apple trainers I know charge more than that for an hour. And, of course, the level of training that pro Apple Certified Trainers can offer is far beyond that of the Apple Store, but I still think that these sessions can be quite useful and are an affordable option for a lot of beginners using Aperture.
Add to workshops and One to One training sessions these new Pro Labs and you’ve got a really compelling reason to go with an end-to-end Apple solution… I’m thinking specifically of the new user, just starting to get into digital photography and trying to make a decision between Aperture and Lightroom. It’s a pretty strong selling point for Apple to be able to say “hey, go with Aperture and come back to the store for free training and workshops”.
One thing that I’ve heard a few rumblings about from some of the Pro Trainer channels is a feeling that these Labs might threaten some of our prospective business. And I suppose it may. But I don’t think that these Labs are intended to parallel the experience or depth of an expensive multi-day Apple Training course. And I’d be perfectly happy to direct a beginner Aperture user to an Apple-led course and then have the chance to work with him or her in-depth once they have a foundation in the software.
The Pro Labs are currently only being offered at West 14th Street, but it seems likely that Apple is using the new store to try the concept out. If Apple’s track record is any indicator, the initiative will be a huge success and we’ll see these classes offered at other stores. Even if Apple decides to charge a nominal fee for the courses, I bet it will still be a steal over the alternatives.