The stellar support you get at the Genius Bar is one reason why many of us continue to buy Macs, but it almost never made it to an Apple store. Steve Jobs thought the idea was “idiotic” and told former retail chief Ron Johnson it would fail.
When Jobs introduced us to the world’s very first Apple store in 2001, he gushed about how the Genius Bar could perform service “right in the store” and answer any questions you had about your Mac and the peripherals you were using alongside it.
But when Johnson first thought of the idea, Jobs hated it.
“I remember the day I came in and told Steve about the Genius Bar idea and he says, ‘That’s so idiotic! It’ll never work!’” Johnson said on the Recode Decode podcast.
Jobs said, “Ron, you might have the right idea, but here’s the big gap: I’ve never met someone who knows technology who knows how to connect with people. They’re all geeks! You can call it the Geek Bar.”
Johnson was sure Jobs was wrong. “Steve, kids who are in their 20s today grew up in a very different world,” he said. “They all know technology, and that’s who’s going to work in the store.”
Jobs conceded that the Genius Bar might be the “right idea,” but he still wasn’t convinced that people who knew technology back then would be able to communicate with users who needed help at the Apple store. That didn’t last long.
The following day, Jobs ordered Apple’s lawyers to trademark the “Genius Bar” name. It has been a staple of the Apple store ever since the first one opened its doors, and 16 years on, very few companies have been able to match this level of support in retail stores.
In newer Apple stores that have been redesigned by Jony Ive, the Genius Bar has become Genius Grove, where specialists sit with visitors under local trees. Ive’s vision was to turn stores into communities that would be more welcoming to Apple fans.