Apple (s aapl) today introduced free Apple Store software for iPads, iPod touches and iPhones that enables customers to shop the retailer directly from the mobile devices. The new application supports browsing and shopping for Apple wares complete with user reviews and detailed product specifications, much like Apple’s retail website. Customers can also create appointments for in-store services such as Personal Shopping, Genius Bar or One-on-One training.
Up to now, one could always shop the Apple Store or make in-store appointments through a web browser, so in that regards, the software isn’t adding any new functionality. But Apple’s retail web channel can be clunky in a small browser window, and clunky doesn’t sell hardware or software. Apple products and shopping are as much about the experience as they are about performance and features.
Apple could have created a mobile web version of its store, but by building a clean mobile storefront for use only on its own devices, it’s furthering the “halo effect” it already enjoys. And that effect can further influence owners of the 100 million iOS4 devices Apple says it’s sold — it’s like 100 million little mobile retail stores were just opened.
Two things jump out at me, though: First, the new software isn’t optimized for Apple’s iPad, one of the hottest devices currently available with an estimated 200,000 sales a week. That means iPad owners have to make do with a small version of the app or use the pixel-doubling feature to see it in full screen. And there’s no social aspect to the application — given the growth of social networking, I would have expected some type of such functionality. Perhaps a link to Twitter to say, “Hey, I just bought the new redesigned Apple Mac Mini that debuted this morning!” Even with those two minor niggles, Apple’s next earnings call should prove interesting if the company breaks out product sales generated by its new mobile software.
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