By Carl Howe
[My apologies to the memory of Pavarotti, but I just couldn't resist]
Reuters says that Apple (AAPL) has called a UK press conference for Tuesday, September 18. The big buzz is that this is the beginning of the iPhone Europe barrage, whereby we find out which carriers -- the current favorite in the UK is O2 -- and which stores will carry Apple's flagship phone/ipod/internet communicator. But you never know with these special events. Given the love Steve Jobs was passing out for Starbucks (SBUX) at the iPod special event, perhaps, we'll be getting an announcement of the iLatte.
Personally, I am intrigued by an idea passed on by reader Paul Rudé, who suggested that Apple perhaps might want to use its Starbucks relationship as a new vehicle for selling iPods and iPhones in Europe. Given my prior observation concerning Apple's lack of retail stores and Genius Bars in Europe, having a channel relationship with Starbucks could extend Apple's reach into European retail. Such an arrangement might be particularly effective with some type of "Mobile Genius" support, where Apple Geniuses would hold scheduled service sessions at local Starbucks shops and thereby provide some of the on-the-ground support that customers look for at Apple Stores, and do so in a friendly, neighborhood environment. Yes, it would be a huge undertaking and would require a deep relationship with Starbucks in terms of logistics, training, and compensation. But on the other hand, if Apple can manage to create stores-within-stores in Best Buys (BUY)in the US, the idea may not be completely crazy. And for those worried about disconnect between the prices of expensive Apple electronics and Starbucks coffee, don't forget that Starbucks already sells $1,000 expresso machines here in the US.
In Paul's note, he also suggested another exciting idea to Apple Europe: Apple should buy the video rights to the full Pavarotti funeral mass and sell video copies via the iTunes store. In Europe, where opera fans are much more common than here in the US, such a video program could be very popular, and there are no conventional sources for that content. Without the constraints of shelf space, the iTunes store is the ideal venue in which to sell such a program. And it would further demonstrate to international Apple customers that Apple appreciates their interests as much as US ones. It would be a very smart marketing tactic in Apple's iPhone launch into Europe; I think Apple should pick up on it.