By Aaron Pressman and Adam Lashinsky
September 13, 2017

The first impression I had of the new Apple Park, the iPhone giant’s new corporate headquarters, was the smell of manure. The landscaping around the 175-acre facility with its 9,000-plus trees is so new that the odor of animal fertilizer and wood chips alongside the sidewalk on the climb to the Steve Jobs Theater was overpowering.

Newness is precisely what Apple is after right now. On Tuesday, at the first product launch at its new home, it unveiled the most significant update to the iPhone in years as well as a spiffed up Apple TV and Apple Watch. It also unveiled the sort of relatively geeky but epic Apple advancements like wireless charging (from un-Apple-like third-party vendors), facial recognition, and the hints of a future augmented reality strategy.

There are oodles of good accounts of Apple’s new $999 offering and its other enhancements, including this one from Fortune’s Don Reisinger. I want to focus instead today on some of my other, non-odoriferous impressions from the two-hour event in Cupertino, Calif.

The new circular office building is awe-inspiring. Apple’s guests didn’t actually go in; the newly dubbed Steve Jobs Theater is tucked away in a corner of the site away from the main site. From across the street, in various neighborhoods of middle-of-the-road Cupertino, the massive building really looks like a spaceship out of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. It veritably hovers in the near distance. The theater is gorgeous too, a fine venue for commercial launches and anything else Apple decides to host there.

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Apple chooses carefully the music it plays to idle away the minutes before its events begin. The last song was “All You Need Is Love,” by the Beatles, a Steve Jobs favorite. CEO Tim Cook noted that “Steve loved days like this.” And he did.

Overlooked by the iPhone X coverage was a short presentation by retail chief Angela Ahrendts. (Like every other senior Apple executive who presented on stage, she was simply “Angela” in Cook’s chummy introductions. The others were “Jeff” Williams, operations head and Apple Watch spokesman; “Eddy” Cue, the services guru who spoke for Apple TV; “Phil” Schiller, longtime head of product marketing who had the coveted slot of introducing the new iPhones; and “Craig” Federighi, the ruler of all software who demonstrated how the newest iPhone works.)

Ahrendts discussed a significant repositioning of Apple’s retail efforts. She said “stores” are now “town squares,” a place where the community gathers. Each town square has a “plaza,” an “artists’ space,” and a “board room,” a place for entrepreneurs to gather. She also said new stores, er, town squares will have a relaxed “genius grove,” a recognition of what anyone with a broken iPhone knows, that the “Genius Bar” had become a hectic, frenzied, frustrating place. Apple stores now have a “creative pro,” said Ahrendts, the liberal arts equivalent of a genius for technology.

All this adds up to a potentially significant re-thinking of Apple’s retail approach. She also said, without elaborating, that the company plans to “invest online.” That’s interesting.

Some other observations:

* Cook said the Apple Watch had experienced 50% year-over-year growth and is now the “No. 1 watch in the world.” Apple can be quite specific about performance metrics when it wants to be. So pay attention when it starts releasing actual Apple Watch numbers rather than this comparatively meaningless data.

* Various executives namechecked various significant “frenemies.” WeChat works with the Watch, for example. Netflix and Amazon Prime Video figure prominently in the Apple TV. These mentions are never accidental. I don’t recall seeing Facebook or Google, though I might have missed them.

* One of my favorite moments came during a demo of the new Apple Watch cellular capability after Deirdre Caldbeck, a product-marketing executive on the watch, spoke to Jeff Williams while being filmed from a nearby boat atop her standup paddle board in the middle of Lake Tahoe. Williams said he wanted to “go rogue”—meaning he was abandoning the script, though who knows with Apple, this could have been planned—to point out that the quality of her connection while paddling was “darn close to magic.” He’s right, and it’s the kind of stunt Steve Jobs would have relished: Highly staged, rather dramatic, and an ideal demonstration of impressive technology.

The pungent surroundings of the new Apple campus indeed isn’t all that’s new at the revered company, which still knows when to honor its past too.

Adam Lashinsky
@adamlashinsky
adam_lashinsky@fortune.com

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