City Inn. A design for life.

In increasing numbers, hotels are relying upon sophisticated Apple technology to deliver all their guest entertainment needs. At the forefront in the United Kingdom is the City Inn Group, which has been offering 20-inch iMacs in their guest rooms for the past several years.

City Inn has hotels in Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Glasgow and London, with more openings planned in Leeds and Amsterdam. The London site, which opened in Westminster in September 2003, was the largest new-build hotel in the city for 30 years. These purpose-built hotels offer all the amenities and benefits of 21st century accomodation; good air-conditioning, modern interior design, and intelligent use of light.

City Inn's association with Apple began in Manchester in 2007, when managing director Huw O’Connor was figuring out a strategy to set new benchmarks for customer amenity. “The heart of our brand", he beams, “is trying to give customers what they should have, not what they historically have had”.

When it came to setting up the in-room entertainment, the company was determined to challenge existing patterns. “I thought, rather than invest in a separate TV, radio, DVD player, CD player, and all the other devices customers expect, why not provide just one device that offers everything and more?”

After examining a few solutions, O’Connor chose the iMac, convinced by its ease-of-use, multimedia intelligence, low maintenance requirements, and high build quality. “Apple were very helpful”, he explains, referring to the advice he was given on how to implement an all-Mac system. Apple also connected him with key software and integration providers like Faronics and Direct Streams.

Each iMac features iLife, high-speed internet access (and free Wi-Fi), Microsoft Office, video conferencing using the built-in iSight camera, and – in another customer-focussed gesture – Skype, meaning guests can call home for free, avoiding those expensive call charges prevalent across the hotel trade.

In addition, the iMacs also have 38 (IP) TV and 23 radio channels, and can play both DVDs and CDs – a wide collection of which are available to loan from a free library at the front desk. Essentially, the iMac functions as a fully-integrated entertainment, communication and productivity system.

City Inn’s new hotel in Leeds opens in July 2009, and for this occasion the in-room iMacs will be using a different, more interactive, version of the group’s Mac management software. Developed by MOOW Technologies, this software also lets customers interact with the hotel for restaurant bookings, check-out, room service and bill payments – in addition to everything else the existing iMacs can do.

“I was really excited at the whizz-bang functionality of an iMac in the room, but first and foremost, it needed to work easily as a television and had to be intuitive to use for non-technical people – so my grandmother could walk in and turn it on to watch TV”, O’Connor explains.

On start-up, the iMacs default to a bespoke screen detailing the various available options, controlled by the Apple Remote. The software (developed in conjunction with Direct Streams and MOOW) provides clear instructions to guests for using the features, including the facility to surf the internet or use the iMac for what it is – as a fully-functioning computer. The chain also offers an in-room guide to help guests get oriented with their system for the first time.