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Apple arrives

Apple Store Belfast Opening_016At 9am this morning the doors opened for Apple's first store in Ireland, It's been a long time coming and I really expected if Apple were ever to open a store anywhere in Ireland Dublin seemed to be the obvious first choice. Not that I'm complaining though, I'm very happy that Apple have a nice new store within a short drive from me.

So I went down this morning to witness the event, get my free T-shirt and see if the Apple Stores live up to their reputation. This was my first trip to an official store and, I must say, it did not disappoint.
Not so much the style of the store itself (although it does look terrific) not so much the location (they did get the best in Belfast) and not so much the hyper-excited staff (although they are knowledgeable and helpful).

No sir, the excitement for me is that finally, finally, having used Macs almost exclusively since they were first available here (sometime around 1983) I now have an 'official' Apple store to buy from, get repairs, training, decent advice and (not least) the opportunity to actually get my hands on the latest & greatest from Apple to help me properly evaluate the right kit before deciding to buy anything.

And, at last, a store that takes Apple kit seriously and doesn't practically 'apologise' for having to sell it - or try and steer you to an (apparently) cheaper PC alternative (probably with a good staff sales commission this week!).

An end also to the frustration of visiting a local 'Mac' store only to find their stock levels of accessories/software are almost non-existent - the shopping excursion inevitably ending with the obligatory session back on a web store. In complete contrast the new Apple Belfast store displays an overwhelming range of Mac kit, software (some of which I'd not seen before) and accessories for iPods/iPhones etc. This is a veritable Aladdin's Cave for the Mac faithful (Macolytes?) and I can see them make a lot of money on the accessories alone.

As for the launch event itself I must admit that the highly excited staff were quite entertaining (for probably all the wrong reasons to me) in their unfailing efforts to whip prospective customers in the queue (and themselves) into a frenzy. A bit OTT for me, though as a long-time Apple user it was excitement enough for me to see Apple's first store open in Belfast anyway, something I thought would never happen.

So it was a launch morning filled with much excited whooping, cheering, high-fives, applause and thronging crowds... but luckily all tempered a bit with typical Belfast humour.

The long-suffering Apple faithful of Northern Ireland have been rewarded, nay blessed, with a shiny new temple to worship at - and donate to!

And I'll be among the regulars, looking for a seat at the front, close to the altar.

It was also great to (briefly) meet up again with the usual suspects at various places in the queue. Later, in the melee inside the store, I bumped into many more friends, some of them not seen in years. All told a pretty enjoyable morning.

I took some shots of the launch this morning, now on my Flickr page