updated 11:25 pm EDT, Wed September 21, 2011
Program could expand to other stores
Apple has detailed plans to launch a pilot program to loan retail employees an iPad 2, which they could use freely for a week to help further familiarize them with iOS 5 and various apps, reports CNet. The program, which could be limited to just the company's flagship San Francisco store, could expand to other stores and potentially involve other products, such as the forthcoming iPhone revision or future laptops.
Employees could borrow the iPad from a stock of "loaner" devices like a library book, and return it a week later for other employees to use. The idea would be to help train employees on the forthcoming iOS 5 and the variety of apps available for the iPad in a hands-on fashion so that they could answer customer questions about their own experiences.
In 2007, Apple did something similar with its (then much smaller) retail workforce by providing all employees with their own iPhone, which they got to keep. Earlier this year, Verizon offered Apple Store employees a specially-discounted plan to entice them to upgrade or switch to the Verizon version of the iPhone.
The iPad has played an increasingly important role in Apple retail since its introduction in April of 2010, quickly becoming the second most-popular product Apple sells (to the great surprise of pundits) behind the iPhone. The company now also uses the iPad in stores as digital signage on various displays, reinforcing its versatility.
If successful, the loaner program could expand to enable employees to gain hands-on, unrestricted experience with new devices, which would aid their intuitive understanding of the devices beyond what sales and training material might provide, without the need to spend a fair portion of their wages keeping up-to-date on Apple products by buying them, though most Apple retail employees are fans of the company's products and buy them for themselves. [via CNet]