iChatAV With Apple Stores

Would you like to be able to iChatAV with an Apple retail store? Well, it's not difficult at all to connect, although it's hit-and-miss trying to find someone to talk to. All you need are a couple of numbers to create the "buddy" screen name for the store and its computers.

The screen name for retail stores is constructed from the letters "ars" for "Apple Retail store," the store's official 3-digit number, a period, and a 2-digit computer number representing the computer. For example, this iChatAV screen name:

ars047.05

This would be the Cherry Creek retail store in Denver, and computer #5, which is probably on the "Pro" table. Note that you use leading zeros for both the store number and the computer number. The computers are numbered starting with the front-most computer in the "Pro" section, which is on the left wall of the stores, then the Pro computers on the desk, the "Home" section desk, then the Home computers along the wall. The computer numbers continue left-to-right to the back of the store.

Only certain computers have an iSight camera connected, which currently seem to be #1, 3, 7, 10 and 16-18 at the small and medium-sized stores. At the San Francisco store, and perhaps the other flagships with an Internet café, the iSight-equipped iMacs are numbered from 68-74, and 02-06...give them a try!

In order to communicate with a particular computer, it must be running iChatAV, someone must be in front of the computer watching the screen, and they must accept your invitation to chat--it's pretty hit-and-miss. I've put in as many as 60 store IDs, and find that just 3-4 of those IDs have iChatAV running on any of their computers. Also, many times the person who is looking at the computer is a non-Macintosh user, and has no idea what to do when they receive your invitation to chat.

Having said that, I have chatted with several persons at Apple stores, both via text and video. In one case I bumped into a iChatAV demonstration being given by a Mac Specialist with a customer, and was able to show them what an actual video iChat looks like. I've also had several chats with visitors at the Ginza (Tokyo) Apple store--it's store #79.

Thanks to Brian for this screenshot of an actual video iChatAV with the North Michigan Avenue (Chicago) store, with a friend and passing store employee. He found a link-up with ars035.49.

Surf here for a list of stores sort by their store number.

Below is a screenshot from the Grand Arcade (UK) retail store, showing the network configuration in May, 2008. The icons actually match the type of computer that is listed: iMacs seem to be 51-55, while laptops are 22-33. The "Softwareupdateserver" is the main computer that re-initializes the computers each night, and the "Time Capsule" in the Airport/back-up device.

Update:You can quickly and easily search for stores and available display computers on this Web site. Select a store from the drop-down menu, press "Go" and then look for the bright-green box around an icon. Click on the icon, and your local iChat program will start and connect to that display computer's running iChat. You'll have to enter some text--perhaps repeatedly--to get the attention of someone at the computer in the store.