It was about 7:15 a.m. the first day of sales of the new iPad - March 16 - and the line at the Apple store in Fairfax, Va., was already more than 100 people deep. They were orderly and friendly as an Apple employee passed out vouchers for the iPad people wanted. The idea was that the store employees would know immediate what iPad you wanted, select it from the immense stack at the back of the store and get you on your way as quickly as possible.
The same Apple employees were pushing a cart loaded with refreshments, so you could have coffee or water while you waited. It was like airline service, but without the attitude and without the spilled coffee in your lap. I asked the woman who was first in line what she planned to do with her new iPad. "I don't know," she said. "My husband thinks I'm crazy."
I asked others in line. "Because it's cool," was a common answer. Perhaps the second most common was, "because my wife took mine and I need one." A few people mentioned educational uses. Buyers seemed split between the AT&T version of the iPad and the Verizon Wireless version.
I asked one future iPad owner why he decided on the AT&T version. "I have AT&T for my phone," he said. "It just makes sense."
Upstairs at the Verizon Experience store in Fair Oaks Mall, the line was more subdued, and seemed to consist of a larger proportion of business purchasers. There, the first person in line was a radiologist who needed the improved resolution for viewing X-rays in his continuing education class. He also thought he could use it in conjunction with his daughters' sports activities.
Inside the Verizon store after it opened, I noticed a large number of people buying multiple iPads. One person had a stack of four devices, apparently one for each member of his family. A Verizon store employee was on hand as each customer entered the store to help with the purchase process and help the customers get their device activated on Verizon's 4G Long-Term Evolution (LTE) network.
Back downstairs at the Apple store, it was now nearly 9 a.m., and the line was still there. Apple employees were chatting with customers, still passing out refreshments and pairing each customer with an Apple salesperson waiting inside the store entrance. The line was shorter, but not as short as I'd expected. People kept joining the line, apparently stopping by to pick up a new iPad on the way to work.
Finally, I joined the line, was handed my voucher, offered refreshments and chatted with the Apple employee that I'd been chatting with all along anyway. The line moved quickly, and in minutes I was introduced to an Apple salesperson. "Hi, I'm Ian," the young man with the blue Apple T-shirt said. He took my voucher and said, "Follow me."
We walked to the back of the store and Ian picked out a black, 16GB, Verizon iPad and we went to a table. About that time, Rick, another Apple store employee, came by and introduced himself as the business representative. Rick and Ian revealed that they are both eWEEK readers. I wondered briefly if that explained the cordial reception, but I noticed that everyone else was being treated just like I was.
Apparently, Apple sends its store staff to charm school.
Once Ian was done extracting money from my credit card, he took me to two more Apple Store employees who were there to help me get my iPad set up and running. In reality, you don't need much help getting an iPad running. The process is totally intuitive, and most of the process was spent chatting with the people helping me do the setup while the new iPad restored information from where I'd backed it up from my old iPad-the original version-to the iCloud the previous night.
The hardest part of the whole setup, in fact, was the waiting. The Apple store's WiFi was being heavily used, so things went slowly. Slowest of all was restoring the apps. While we waited, I entertained the Apple employees with tales of CeBIT, which gave us a reason to explore the high-resolution display on the iPad.
As I left, Rick told me that his numbers indicate that nearly 80 percent of business tablet buyers chose the iPad. While the crowd waiting in line didn't seem to be particularly business-oriented, that may be because they just didn't want to wait. Rick said that most business users had already either called ahead and reserved iPads for pickup later in the day, or had ordered them online for delivery to the store. Those customers would be picking up their iPads at less crowded times.
So does the new iPad meet my expectations? It's hard to say. Right now it's having its battery charged. But the images on the iPads at the Apple and Verizon stores were impressive, so I think it will meet everything I need the device for.
"New iPad Was it Worth the Wait 691881." eWeek 17 Mar. 2012. Computer Database. Web. 20 Mar. 2012.
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