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 dont know," she said. "My husband thinks Im crazy."
I asked others in line. "Because its 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 Verizons 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 Id 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 Id been chatting with all along anyway. The line moved quickly, and in minutes I was introduced to an Apple salesperson. Hi, Im Ian, the young man with the blue Apple T-shirt said. He took my voucher and said, Follow me.