Right now, Macintosh computers are still nowhere near as common as Windows-based computers. First, they have a higher price of admission. And not as many retail stores carry them. In the Phoenix area, there are few choices. Here's what you can expect from them.
The Apple Store – There are five Apple Stores in the metro Phoenix area. Each shares the same "we're hipper than you and we know it" vibe that was pilloried in an episode of The Simpsons (curiously enough, this episode is not mentioned on the Apple Store Wikipedia page – interesting). The employees are a bit saccharin, but gamely try hard when confronted with a technical challenge beyond a mere sales pitch. Here's where the Apple Store really falls down, though – big crowds can monopolize the sales staff. And guess who has to ring you up? The same people who are occupied trying to sell product. I roamed the store recently for about 10 minutes, searching for someone I could pay (I had a wireless keyboard and a seven-port USB hub in-hand). No dice, no takers, not even a "can I help you?". I re-shelved the products and walked out. I still have yet to buy anything at a Mac store despite a few attempts. It's almost as if people want to be seen at the Apple Store. And Apple seems perfectly content with the spectacle.
Best Buy – The scene here is typical big-box fare. There's also a dearth of software and hardware options for the Mac crowd. Best Buy seems more interested, really, in iPads than in desktop computers. It's scarcely worth mentioning, and will likely appeal only to fans of the anonymous chain store flavor.
MacMedia – This retailer's two locations are scrubbed clean of the wild-eyed evangelism and slickness of the Apple Store. Sales staff members will actually admit to familiarity with the Windows world, and will offer answers beyond "Mac is better." Being a small staff, you might have to wait your turn for other customers. But the staff will acknowledge that you're there, and that they'll help you out as soon as possible. The selection is solid – and a bit more varied. The Biltmore Apple Store is moments from my home and walking distance from work, while MacMedia's Scottsdale location is at least 10 minutes away. So far, I've made all my Mac purchases there. It's not salesmanship and flash like the Apple Store – MacMedia is a more conventional and service-oriented shopping experience.…