Apple Almost Built a Futuristic Cybercafe in 1997 With Computers at Every Table

Around the time former Apple CEO Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, the company considered building an "Apple Cafe," a fanciful, futuristic cybercafe where people could gather to eat, do business, and use Apple computers. The idea was created in partnership with Mega Bytes, with Apple planning to license its name and brand.

Former Disney Imagineer and Landmark Entertainment Group founder Tony Christopher was tasked with coming up with a design for the concept, and in a new interview with Fast Company, he shared images of what the cafe might have looked like and the story behind its conceptualization.


Jobs was reportedly involved in the design process, choosing Christopher's team because of their work creating unique retail spaces. Jobs wanted a way for Apple to connect to customers, which led to the idea of a cafe equipped with Apple products. A computer was at every table, where people could do things like order food, watch movies, surf the web, design web pages, and play video games.

A predecessor to the Apple retail stores we know today, the cafe was also meant to sell Apple products to consumers. The images don't resemble the clean, simple design of Apple Stores today, but the central idea - connecting with customers - inspired both the cafe and Apple's eventual line of retail stores.

The interior design was very high tech, and we worked on it for about six months. I think we were trying to create sort of a modern-but-futuristic look, which is different than the immersive theme park stuff we do: castles and dinosaurs. I remember the designers we put on it were the high-tech, future-thinking guys. We understood that we were dealing with a computer, which was a future technology not a historic technology, and the Apple Cafe had to reflect that.

Apple's original plan was to build a flagship Apple Cafe in Los Angeles and then expand them around the world. Apple was far enough along in the design process that there was a website promoting the Apple Cafe, and planned openings in Paris, London, New York, Tokyo, and Sydney, but the stores never materialized.

While Christopher says the idea was sidelined in favor of Jobs' plan for an "Apple Store," press information released by Apple at the time said Apple's business partners had pulled back. From 1997:

"We think it's a great project, and we'd like to move forward," said a spokeswoman for Landmark Entertainment, which was to design the cafes. Spokespeople for Mega Bytes International, a U.K-based real estate company, could not be reached for comment.

The Apple spokeswoman said the concept of launching the cafes remains a possibility down the road. "If somebody approaches us again, we'll be happy to consider it," she said. "It just didn't work out with this group in particular."

The first Apple Store eventually opened in 2001 under the leadership of Ron Johnson. Over the last 16 years, Apple Stores have expanded to more than 20 countries, with Apple operating 491 stores around the world.

Related Roundup: Apple Stores

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
45 months ago
jony would have designed coffee cups that wouldn't fit in anyone's cupholders.
Score: 25 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
45 months ago
LOL, so 90s!

Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
45 months ago
Jobs' sixth sense saved them again.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
45 months ago
Ahh, take me back to 1997.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
45 months ago
And right after having a coffee, you could've visited the Apple gift shop and dress to impress...



Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
45 months ago

I think it could've worked, it just would've had to evolve with the times. Yes, it's a wireless mobile world, but cafes and coffee shops are still incredibly popular. In fact, all the mobile devices indirectly contribute to their continued success, because of all the people who use them at these places.

But the stationary desk top theme wouldn't have lasted. Agreed about cafe's still being predominant for convenience and for meetings. Mobility and portability would have positioned a shop like this to Change or make it known why it's unique in its own merit to last, which it wouldn't have in today's world. In 1997, this would have been likely lucrative.

It's hard to believe 1997 was 20 years ago. Seems like yesterday in retrospect.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

Apple-Acquired Dark Sky Officially Shuts Down Android App

Saturday August 1, 2020 3:43 pm PDT by
Apple in March purchased weather app Dark Sky, and at that time, Dark Sky's developers said that the app's Android version would be discontinued on July 1, 2020. However, instead of shuttering the app on that date, the app's developers announced that the discontinuation would be delayed for another month. Now that it's August, Android users are no longer able to access the app, and...

Apple May Launch This Year's 'iPhone 12' Lineup in Two Stages, With 6.1-inch Models Debuting First

Monday August 3, 2020 3:14 am PDT by
Apple last week confirmed that its "‌iPhone‌ 12" launch will be delayed this year due to the ongoing global health crisis and restrictions on travel. Apple last year started selling iPhones in late September, but this year, Apple projects supply will be "available a few weeks later," suggesting a release sometime in October. We're expecting a total of four OLED iPhones in 5.4, 6.1, and...

Apple Announces New 27-Inch iMac With 10th-Gen Processors, Up to 128GB RAM, 1080p Webcam, True Tone, and More

Tuesday August 4, 2020 8:07 am PDT by
Apple today announced a new 27-inch iMac with faster 10th-generation Intel Core processor options, next-generation AMD graphics, up to 128GB of RAM, a higher-resolution 1080p front-facing FaceTime camera, a True Tone display with a nano-texture glass option, a T2 chip, higher fidelity speakers, studio-quality microphones, and more. A breakdown of the new 27-inch iMac's features and specs:10th...

Apple Explains Why You Might See 'Not Charging' When a Mac is Plugged In

Monday August 3, 2020 1:42 pm PDT by
If you have a Mac and have seen a "Not Charging" warning when plugging it in to power, Apple last week released a support document that explains why. Macs running macOS 10.15.5 or later have a Battery Health Management feature to preserve the life of the battery, and occasionally, the Battery Health Management option will cause the Mac to pause its charging for calibration purposes.Depending ...

Top Stories: Try the 5.4-Inch iPhone 12 Display Size, Blockbuster Earnings, Tim Cook at Antitrust Hearing

Saturday August 1, 2020 6:00 am PDT by
Another busy week of Apple news and rumors has wrapped up, with a lot of focus on Tim Cook's appearance at a Congressional antitrust hearing and a blockbuster earnings report. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. We continued to hear rumors about the upcoming iPhone 12 lineup, including a rare admission from Apple that the lineup will launch "a few weeks later" than...

Unreleased iPod Touch with Mac Pro Glossy Black Finish Shared Online

Sunday August 2, 2020 11:32 am PDT by
Twitter user @DongleBookPro has today posted images of what seems to be a first-generation iPod Touch prototype with a 2013 Mac Pro-style glossy black finish. The Twitter user claims that the iPod Touch prototype pictured has "the same coating as the 2013 Mac Pro." Had the finish been selected for the final product, it also would have been similar to the metallic glossy black finish that...

Just How Small Will the 5.4-Inch iPhone 12 Screen Be? Try It Out for Yourself

Tuesday July 28, 2020 12:57 pm PDT by
As rumors of the iPhone 12 have continued to build over the past few months, the one model that has the most excitement around it is the smallest 5.4" model. The iPhone 12 is believed to be coming in 5.4", 6.7", and 6.1" sizes. Dummy models have shown how much smaller the 5.4" is compared to the rest of the iPhone lineup. The upcoming 5.4" iPhone falls in-between the size of the original...

Everything New in iOS 14 Beta 4: Apple TV Widget, Search Improvements, Exposure Notification API and More

Tuesday August 4, 2020 11:14 am PDT by
Apple today released the fourth developer betas of iOS and iPadOS 14 for testing purposes, tweaking and refining some of the features and design changes included in the update. Changes get smaller and less notable as the beta testing period goes on, but there are still some noteworthy new features in the fourth beta, which we've highlighted below. - Apple TV widget - There's a new Apple TV...

Microsoft to Stop Supporting Office 2016 for Mac in October

Monday August 3, 2020 12:21 pm PDT by
Microsoft's Office 2016 for Mac is set to reach its end of support date on October 13, 2020, and after that date, connecting to Office 365 services using the Office 2016 for Mac software will no longer be supported. Microsoft shared the detail in a support document from July highlighting which versions of Office will be supported for connecting to Office 365 services in the future.Connecting ...

Apple Shares Requirements for Default Third-Party Browser and Email Apps With Developers

Monday August 3, 2020 4:28 pm PDT by
Apple in iOS 14 plans to allow users to set a third-party app as the default email or browser app on an iPhone or iPad, replacing the current Apple-made default apps Safari and Mail. Apple hasn't provided many details on the new feature to users, but as noted by MacStories' Federico Vittici, Apple has shared documentation with developers who want their apps to have the option to be set as a...