The famous "We'll be back" sign.
In the latest episode of ATP, Marco, John, and Casey discuss why Apple takes down the store webpage for the few hours leading up to the release of a new product.
I've heard from several developers I follow on Twitter that there is no technical reason they take the store down, and it makes sense. In 2013, do they really not have the web chops to update their store live? Of course they do.
Apple is a very sentimental company: look at the way they have remembered their fallen founder, helped victims of disasters, stated their company vision, and showcased their products with emotional ads.
However, I think there's more of a reason than simply sentiment behind that mysterious "We'll be back" page.
Apple is a Family
One thing that is evident to anyone who has ever worked for Apple or bought a product from an Apple Retail store is that Apple desires to create the environment of a family more than a corporate machine.
When you buy a product, you don't just get a new device, you are invited to join the Apple family. There's no wonder the area dedicated to customer service in Apple Retail Stores is called the "Family Room". When your iPhone, iPad, or Mac breaks or has an issue, your relationship with the family is damaged in some way. The eager Genius helping you is there to make it right again.
Every Family Has Traditions
Every Christmas morning, my four siblings and I (with our two dogs), pile on our parents' bed while my Dad (in his late 50s) dresses up like Santa Claus and brings us our stockings full of candy and small gifts. We can barely fit on the bed because my youngest brother is 19 and the oldest is 28. The dogs bark like crazy, every single year, thinking my Dad is an intruder until he takes his beard off.
It sounds silly, but this tradition is the most sacred of all things in our family. We have done it since we were too young to remember and will continue to do it for the foreseeable future. Everything must be perfect and unchanged, year after year. Everyone must be in the exact same place on the bed and receive the same stocking (mine is the blue one with a snowman that says "Noel"). If one of us gets up to go to the bathroom, the entire procession is halted.
Your family probably has it's own weird, quirky tradition too.
I believe Apple takes down the online store prior to product launches because that's one of their 'Christmas morning' traditions. They have done it as long as I can remember and will most likely continue long into the future.
All tech nerds know when Apple is going to announce new products weeks ahead of time, but there is still nothing quite like the excitement (for a nerd) on launch day. It really is like Christmas: you have some small idea of what you're going to get but you're not quite sure. All you know is that it's going to be awesome.
The tech news blogs fire up their live conference coverage pages, pundits make their last minute predictions, and Twitter buzzes with wildcard guesses. Then, the Apple store goes down. The blogosphere scrambles to be the first to post: "Apple Online Store goes down ahead of the keynote!" (1).
I'm confident that Apple has the technical capability to not need to take the store down before the new shiny thing is announced, but I'm also pretty sure there are more efficient ways for my Dad to distribute stockings.
It's just not going to happen: it's far too sacred.
1: To John Siracusa: to answer your concern about Apple Retail employees, around a year ago I was in an Apple Store during an announcement. You better believe all of the Macs on the floor were tuned to the video feed or a live blog covering the event, and the employees were cheering and showing customers the new toys. Most Apple Retail workers are the diehard fanatics.