Apple has finally launched the iPad in Australia, ending a long wait for fans of the innovative and ‘magical’ mini computer from the team in Cupertino.
Thousands of Apple fans lined up overnight around the country in an effort to snag one of the much-heralded devices – and join their US counterparts who have been using the iPad Wi-Fi version since April 3, and the Wi-Fi + 3G model since April 30 – while those quick enough to nab one of the first round of pre-orders are beginning to receive their iPads via TNT.
More than 500,000 iPads were sold in the first week after its US launch, and one million after a mere 28 days, which makes it one of the most successful products ever made.
Australian Macworld Editor Dave Bullard was at the grand opening of the Bondi Apple Store this morning, looking on as a crowd a couple of hundred strong hit the glass-fronted shop for an iPad and accessories.
The opening of the store began about 10 minutes before 8am with the traditional ‘Running of the Geeks’ stampede by blue-shirted Apple staff.
Then, at 8am the doors opened to a cacophony of hoots, whooping and chanting from the staff and the first lucky customers hit the retail desks with fistfuls of cash.
It was widely thought in the media that there would be an official Australian iPad launch before sales began, but this didn’t materialise.
It didn’t matter to the Apple faithful, though, who were just happy to get their hands on an iPad – which Apple would rather we didn’t call a tablet – and were overwhelmingly positive about the new store space.
Behind the glass facade, the Bondi store is a rectangular space – boxy, yet very classy – with a small grove of trees at the rear, under a glass roof.
We caught up with Apple Australia MD Tony King, who wasn’t allowed to talk to us officially, but said he was picking up an iPad after being told by his kids not to go home without one.
The world-famous Bondi lifeguards also made an appearance, and were all captivated by the iPad.
“It’s like a big version of an iPhone,” Kobi Graham told Australian Macworld. “It doen’t make phone calls, but I suppose you’ll have your iPhone with you anyway.”
Graham said the iPad was a bit fragile for lifeguarding, so the crew would probably stick to their existing computers, but he always uses his iPhone to check surf conditions when off duty “so it would be really good to use an iPad instead, with its bigger screen.”
Australian Macworld online editor Xavier Verhoeven was at the Chadstone Apple store for the launch, where the situation was pretty similar to that in Bondi, minus the trees in the fancy new store.
The line was already 50 people strong by 5am, with a few faithfuls looking weary from an undoubtedly sleepless night. The crowd grew rapidly over the next couple of hours, with around 300 gathered by the time the store opened at 8am.
And the opening was not without fanfare: staff cheered and applauded from inside behind a black curtain from about 6am. At around 7am, they did a few laps of the crowd, all the while cheering, clapping and jogging, before handing out water and “checking in” everyone’s iPad preference. Just before 8am, the curtain dropped, the crowd erupted, and customers filed in (roughly 25 at a time) for the one-on-one shopping experience.
The only real dampener on the morning was Chadstone security’s uptight control of the crowds. “No photos” might have been fair enough, but the suggestion that security were “packing heat” if anyone misbehaved was a little uncalled for. It felt more like being in prison or back at primary school than waiting for the ‘magical’ iPad.
However, the Apple staff more than made up for that, letting anyone and everyone take photos, posing for shots, and offering the outstanding service they’re known for. Each customer was offered the opportunity to take their time perusing the accessories, and could have the models and 3G data options explained at length. Staff even went through the 3G sign-up process if you so desired.
Staff admitted that the store was likely to sell out today, with supply of 16GB 3G models exhausted by the initial queue. If you haven’t got an iPad, but are desperate to get your hands on one, call in to your nearest premium reseller – most of whom have stock available today.