All Quiet On The iPad Front: In Pictures

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Reporting from the front line, Max Smolaks describes empty stores, small queues, peace and goodwill

In the good old days, the launch of a new Apple product would draw bigger crowds than a rock concert with an open bar. The logistical challenge was immense. The queues were several streets long, and required an army of security guards and blue-shirted Apple personnel to keep order.

This morning, when setting off to the flagship store on Regent Street, I was prepared to fight tooth and nail to get to the entrance, and a little bit afraid of being stomped to death. In China, an iPhone 4S shortage on the launch day caused a real riot, complete with deployment of the SWAT teams.

Turns out there was no reason to be worried, as this was the most civilised, calm and risk-free Apple product launch in years.

Where’s the magic?

The demand for the iPad 2 on the launch day was so great it caused many shops to run out of stock within hours. In contrast, today, there were clearly more tablets in the store than people willing to buy them. Outside, the great metal enclosures designed to contain the crowds stood empty, while inside, staff almost outnumbered the customers.

Apple employees are never allowed to talk to the press, but off the record, one of the Geniuses confirmed what everyone else was thinking: this is the least impressive iPad launch to date.

A survey by Dynamo PR found 397 people in the queue this morning, significantly less than at the launch of the iPad 2 (632) and original iPad (451). The first in line to get the new device was Zohaib Ali, 21, who queued for a total of 141 hours.

These are the pictures of the flagship Apple store, taken about an hour after it opened.

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For comparison, here are the pictures of the chaos iPad 2 launch caused in the same shop in March last year, taken by Macworld staff.

“What it definitely does show is that Apple might need to add something new to what’s been a fairly predictable launch, both in terms of the fan-fair behind it and the actual product,” commented Paul Cockerton, co-founder and director of Dynamo PR.

“We spoke to quite a few ‘professional queuers’ who had been paid to be there. We talked to one man who had sold his place near the front of the queue for £300, and been paid £160 to get an iPad for someone who didn’t want to wait in line, effectively covering the cost of his new iPad,” told us Matt Reid, UK director of Protectyourbubble.com.

The queue was dominated by men, with the ratio of men to women at 10:1. For male Apple devotees, the beard quotient was much higher than in previous years, with almost one third sporting facial hair, reports Dynamo.

Interestingly, it seems that this year Windows users have warmed up to the Apple tablet. Sixty-three percent of the queue admitted they had a PC at home, with 32 percent owning a Mac and the remaining 5 percent owning both. This is significantly up from previous years when 44 percent owned a PC in 2011, and 25 percent in 2010.

And it came as no surprise when 30 percent of the queuing public revealed that they would buy “anything and everything” made by Apple.

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