iiNet has taken over the ground floor of its Perth headquarters and turned it into a store front, with hardware, tech experts, and the company's Network Operations Centre (NOC) all on display.
This time last year, iiNet occupied two and a half floors of the five floors of the Subiaco office building that is the home of the company's headquarters. CEO Michael Malone told ZDNet that the company had now acquired the ground floor, and had big plans for the retail shop front, with a new "Experience Centre".
"The idea, fundamentally, is to open up to the public a bit. The idea, originally, was to turn this into more of a cafe experience, but given there's a million cafes within walking distance, we've decided not to interfere with that," he said.
"We've taken over all the retail shop fronts that were there and replaced them with this. So it's going to be visible from the street, so you're going to see the NOC guys working."
Launching today with Communications Minister Stephen Conroy for the company's annual open day, the centre will be used to demonstrate products, such as the BoB modem and VOIP device, various mobile phone products on offer, and the IPTV product Fetch.
"We built a house. It's a little house with a white picket fence. It's got a lounge, kitchen, bedroom, and the breakout area. The idea is to demonstrate all the hardware," Malone said. "People can slump down on the couch and see how Fetch works. Try the BoB 2s, and the other hardware we have, as they operate in the home."
One of the new iiNet-developed products the company is showcasing is Piix, an Android-based picture frame that has a SIM card in it, allowing people to send pictures to the device via MMS.
"You can have a lot of fun with that. 'Was that one meant to go to my girlfriend or my mum?'," he joked.
The second generation would be Wi-Fi compatible too, he said.
The company is also planning on having its own Genius Bar-style help desk, where the company's BoB Squad — now named Techii — will be based.
"They'll be based out of there, so if they're not out on the streets doing a job, they'll be there to answer questions for anyone who wants to come in," Malone said.
Malone said that the centre was not meant as a retail store, but rather to help customers who prefer face-to-face contact, and was part of the company's overall strategical shift towards being not just a dumb pipe internet company.
"I'd like to think of it as more of a support experience, rather than a retail experience," he said. "The first 10 years of iiNet's life was just evangelism; just telling everyone how great the internet was, riding the move from dial-up to broadband."
"Our job now is to help people use the internet better," he said.
He said that bringing the experience centre to Sydney would be more of a challenge, but Adelaide — the home of iiNet subsidiary Internode — might work.
"There's no retail space [in Sydney] because we're in an office building. But Adelaide might be a potential because Internode already has a retail front on the ground floor, which is really just a place for people to pay their bills or chat to tech support staff."