You may have seen this movie before: People are lining up around the world to buy the newest iPad. The latest Apple device is going on sale Friday at 8 a.m. local time in a select first group of 10 countries, and crowds are waiting. In about a week, the iPad goes on sale in another two dozen countries.
Several hundred people lined up around the block to enter Apple's flagship store in New York City, on 5th Avenue, with a comparably sized crowd outside the new Apple store in Grand Central Station.
Even Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak stood in line to enter the Apple store in Los Angeles. Wozniak told news media that he has made it a tradition to wait in line for new Apple products and, as on previous occasions, he started his vigil the day before in order to take a position at the head of the line.
About 200 people were reported lined up for Apple's store in Sydney. As many as 400 were queued up at the store in Covent Garden, London, several hundred stood outside the Paris store on Rue Halevy, and an estimated 350 waited to buy at the Frankfurt store.
More than 400 people lined up to enter Apple's store in downtown Tokyo. Hong Kong's store instituted an iReserve online lottery system, so purchasers could pick up their units at given times. The system required buyers to have a Hong Kong-issued ID, meant to prevent purchases by buyers from mainland China, where the product is not yet on sale. The Hong Kong store reported that there were more buyers than available reservations.
In addition to its online and brick-and-mortar stores, Apple is selling some units through Best Buy, RadioShack and Walmart. Some analysts predict that a million iPads will be sold worldwide on Friday, and others are forecasting millions sold through the weekend.
'Off the Charts'
While sales numbers have not yet been released, the Cupertino, Calif.-based company has said the response has been "off the charts." The company sold out of its initial pre-order supplies.
From the product's launch in 2010 through December of last year, Apple has sold about 55 million iPads. Expectations are for that number to double by the end of this year.
Michael Gartenberg, research director at Gartner, said the response to the first day of sales was "interesting" for several reasons.
He noted that customers were able to pre-order -- and the product still sold out quickly and left a lot of demand for in-person sales. What's also remarkable, he said, is the "trust that customers still have in Apple, since they're willing to buy a product none of them have seen."
Gartenberg pointed out that a variety of tablets have come to market since the iPad 2 was launched, and "none have prompted people to stand in line." If the new high-resolution Retina Display screen is the key attraction, he added, that trust is not misplaced, "because it's really one of those things you have to see."
The rush to buy matches many other Apple product releases, including the iPad 2, whose available supplies sold out on the first day they were available. Similarly, the most recent iPhone, the 4S, sold out in less than a day after its debut in the fall of 2010. The new iPad is the first Apple product since the launch of the 4S in October.
Aside from the attraction of the HD screen, the latest iPad also features a faster processor, a rear camera that's been upped to a 5-megapixel sensor, a new voice dictation app, plus a model that supports 4G LTE high-speed connectivity.
Image credit: iStock/Artist's concept.