It’s party time at Ap­ple Stores as lines form for new­est ipad

The Washington Times Daily - - Business - BY PETER SVENS­SON

NEW YORK | Let the wild rum­pus start.

The cus­tom­ary store­front crowds are ex­pected to gather as Ap­ple’s lat­est ipad goes on sale Fri­day. Long lines are likely even though cus­tomers could have or­dered the new tablet com­puter ahead of time for first-day home de­liv­ery.

The third ver­sion of Ap­ple’s ipad will be avail­able in the U.S. and nine other coun­tries be­gin­ning at 8 a.m. lo­cal time. The new model comes with a faster pro­ces­sor and a much sharper screen. It also boasts an im­proved cam­era, sim­i­lar to that of the lat­est iphone.

For many cus­tomers, vis­it­ing a store in per­son — in­stead of hav­ing the ipad shipped — of­fers a chance to min­gle with die-hard Ap­ple fans.

Two years af­ter the de­but of the first ipad, the de­vice’s launch has be­come the sec­ond-big­gest “gad­get event” of the year, af­ter the an­nual iphone re­lease. A year ago, thou­sands lined up out­side the flag­ship Ap­ple store on New York’s Fifth Av­enue. The de­vice sold out on launch day even though it didn’t go on sale un­til 5 p.m.

Ap­ple does its part to en­cour­age a party at­mos­phere. In past years, the com­pany’s re­tail em­ploy­ees have pro­vided bot­tled water, cof­fee, bagels and even cup­cakes to peo­ple in line. They’ve cheered and clapped as cus­tomers have en­tered and left. Some cus­tomers bring lawn chairs and sleep­ing bags. Oth­ers dress as iphones and ipads.

Although Ap­ple’s prod­uct re­leases have be­come a cul­tural phe­nom­e­non, the cult­like crowds that line up out­side of its stores have made the com­pany vul­ner­a­ble to gen­tle rib­bing from its com­peti­tors.

Tele­vi­sion ads for Sam­sung’s Gal­axy line of phones rou­tinely poke fun at peo­ple who are camped out in line for what ap­pears to be an Ap­ple prod­uct re­lease.

The spots, in heavy ro­ta­tion since De­cem­ber, por­tray Ap­ple fans as clue­less drones who think they’re too cool to buy gad­gets made by com­pa­nies other than Ap­ple. In one of the com­mer­cials, a bearded hip­ster says he could never buy a Sam­sung phone be­cause he’s “creative.” A by­stander ob­serves: “Dude, you’re a barista.”

For some cus­tomers, stand­ing in line will of­fer the only chance to get a new ipad on Fri­day. Ap­ple quickly ran out of sup­plies it set aside for ad­vance or­ders. The com­pany was telling cus­tomers Thurs­day to ex­pect a two- to three-week wait for or­ders placed through its on­line stores.

The new ipad is called just that: “the new ipad.” Ap­ple de­clined to give it a name like “ipad 3” or “ipad HD.” That is con­sis­tent with its nam­ing prac­tice for ipods, MacBooks and imacs, but a break with the way iphone mod­els are named.

In the U.S., the new ipad starts at $499, the same as the pre­vi­ous model, the ipad 2, when it de­buted a year ago. The ipad 2 re­mains in stock, for $100 less.

Ap­ple’s re­tail stores are likely to draw the big­gest crowds be­cause they usu­ally have the largest launch-day sup­plies, but the tablet also will be sold at Best Buy, Ra­dio Shack, Sam’s Club, Tar­get and Wal­mart.

AT&T and Ver­i­zon Wire­less also will sell ipads, but only mod­els with built-in cel­lu­lar broad­band modems. Those mod­els use the com­pa­nies’ lat­est high-speed wire­less net­works, based on so-called “4G LTE” tech­nol­ogy. They’ll be the first Ap­ple de­vices with that ca­pa­bil­ity built in.

Ryo Taka­hashi, wear­ing a samu­rai wig and sand­wich boards, browses the In­ter­net as he and oth­ers wait out­side an Ap­ple Store in Tokyo on Thurs­day, a day be­fore the new ipad was to go on sale.

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