[Note: Image missing due to CMS issue, we're looking into it - Ed.]
The big Apple store event rumored for this weekend may be happening in stores around the world. A tipster to 9to5 Mac claims Australian stores will undergo a complete overhaul of their visual merchandising. Similar to earlier reports, a black sheet will cover the store windows the night before, and retail employees will attend an all-staff meeting the following morning. This new store experience is reportedly being called "Apple Store 2.0" in internal communications and is timed to coincide with Apple's 10-year retail anniversary.
Meanwhile, AppleInsider cites retail sources saying that the next-gen Apple Store setups will feature iPads as retail staff tools, possibly replacing the iPod touch-based EasyPay system currently used for transactions. The iPads may also be in play for sales training operations, with a revamp of the company's internal RetailMe documentation and procedures system in the mix.
Included in the rumored new retail look and feel will be "huge" displays, new sound systems and interactive signage powered by iPads instead of paper. The Genius Bar will be more interactive, and stores will now have dedicated personal setup areas known as "Startup Sessions." A new Apple Store application may also debut as early as Sunday. The iOS app will detect the store in which you are shopping and ask you if you would like to speak with a specialist. Anyone now planning a weekend jaunt to their local Apple store?
Update: According to an anonymous tipster, the iPads are officially being used starting today. They're not necessarily part of an "Apple Store 2.0," but more of an evolutionary change. As for the app asking if you want to speak with a specialist or genius, that functionality has been available since last June, but it's apparently been quite difficult to get customers to use it.