Apple Fans Snap Up The New iPad

The new iPad went on sale on Friday as Apple fans lined up outside stores around the United States to be the first to snap up the sleek touchscreen tablet computer.

Apple began selling the iPad 2, which was unveiled by chief executive Steve Jobs last week, online overnight and in its 236 US stores starting at 5:00 pm (2200 GMT).

The queues did not appear to be as long as those for the iPhone 4 released in June but thousands of people lined up outside Apple stores in San Francisco, New York, Washington and other cities to get their hands on the device, which is one-third thinner, 15 percent lighter and faster than the previous model.

Hundreds of people formed a line around the block outside Apple’s flagship 5th Avenue store in New York, including some who camped out overnight swathed in rain gear and equipped with chairs and big umbrellas.

First in line was Hazem Sayed, an applications developer who bought his coveted spot from Amanda Foote, an entrepreneurial 20-year-old from Florida who staked her claim on Wednesday then auctioned the place on Craigslist.

“It went from $150 to $600 in about 10 minutes,” she said. Finally Sayed came in with the winning bid: $900.

Sayed said he’d be immediately taking his new iPad 2 to a business meeting in Dubai. “I’m going to buy two iPads. If I could I’d buy four,” he said.

Many others in the crowd were foreigners seeking to take advantage of an opportunity they won’t have in their own country for a while. The iPad 2 will go on sale in around two dozen other countries in late March.

Mingda Zhong, 18, a student from Nanjing, said that even the original iPad is rare at home. “You cannot buy the iPad 1 very easily,” he said. “Most Chinese do not have it.”

Some 300 people formed a line outside the Apple store in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, many of them killing time by playing with their iPads.

In San Francisco, a queue of about 150 people wrapped around the block housing the Apple store in Union Square.

Many were holding places in line to buy iPads for others.

Joshua Leavitt, the first in line, said he was with an online service called TaskRabbit, where people perform services for others for a fee. He said he was buying an iPad for someone who is flying home to Singapore later Friday.

“He’s probably going to have the first iPad 2 in Singapore,” Leavitt said.

James Almeida, 24, a product design student at San Jose State University, was next, waiting to buy an iPad for myself.

“Josh was next to me in line so I asked about TaskRabbit,” Almeida said. “So now I’m getting one for a guy in Malaysia.”

Besides the size and weight, the other major improvement to the touchscreen tablet computer is the addition of front- and rear-facing cameras that allow users to take still pictures and video and hold video conversations.

Apple sold 15 million iPads last year, bringing in $10 billion in new revenue and creating an entirely new category of consumer electronics devices.

Dozens of other companies have been scrambling since then to bring their own tablets to market, most of them relying on Google’s Android software, and Apple is hoping the iPad 2 will keep it a step ahead of its rivals.

But with the exception of the Galaxy Tab from South Korea’s Samsung, rival tablet-makers have enjoyed little success.

Technology research firm Gartner is forecasting sales of 55 million tablet computers worldwide this year and another research firm, Forrester, said Apple has little to worry about for now.

“Competing tablets to the iPad are poised to fail, which is why we’re forecasting that Apple will have at least 80 percent share of the US consumer tablet market in 2011,” Forrester said.

More than 65,000 applications have been created for the iPad, while there are currently only about 100 crafted for tablets running Android.

The iPad 2 is selling at the same prices as the original iPad, ranging from $499 for the 16-gigabyte version to $829 for the top-of-the-line 64-GB model.

The iPad 2 will be available on March 25 in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Britain, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

by Sebastian Smith