Apple Store software wall at flagship Apple Store following June ’11 changes (Image: Jason C.)

The following is a guest post from reader Danny (@iDannyOcean):

Apple retail stores undergo several updates each year to refine the shopping experience for its customers.  These changes vary as Apple tries to continually innovate their stores, but one trend has been consistent; Apple is decreasing the presence of Mac software.

When Apple opened the doors of its first retail store in 2001 it had a substantial amount of Mac accessories and software.  The software section was comprised of aisles going down the center of store as recent as 3 years ago.  The Mac App store wasn’t released until January of 2011 but Apple began to shape the layout of their stores around its arrival beginning in 2008.  Personal setup tables and open floor space to accommodate more visitors have replaced rows of software titles:

It seems the amount of available Mac titles decreases with each visual “overnight” Apple retail conducts.  This trend was punctuated last night when Apple stores underwent an update and were left with one small section of Mac software. Apple is slowly shaping the public’s ways of installing software via a disc and promoting the use of their download-only Mac App Store. This trend will reach its summit this July when Apple’s next generation Mac operating system, OS X Lion, will exclusively be available through the App store.

The notion of delivering all Mac software via download makes sense for Apple for several reasons. First, their customers have grown accustomed to utilizing the App and iTunes stores for their media and iDevice applications.  The Mac App Store will help recent PC switchers feel comfortable installing software.  This helps decrease new user frustration. Second, it provides Apple more shelf and inventory space to sell Apple accessories, which bring in higher profit margins.

Finally, Apple will save a tremendous amount of money on software packages, shipping, bags, and paper receipts (which have been optional the last few years).  These savings can be passed to the consumer.  A great example of this is that OS X Lion will be available at launch for only $29.  No one should be surprised if this time next year Apple does not have a dedicated area to Mac software. Indeed, it appears Apple’s plan to reduce our dependence on optical drives began years ago, which is evident in the evolution of their retail stores’ layouts, Apple’s download only software releases, and MacBook Air.

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