Lining Up

March 13, 2011 by Gabe | [mmd] |

I've avoided much of the iPad 2 buzz this past week. Some of it was easy to avoid but I do read Asymco regularly and even Horace Dediu chimed in about the launch.

I prefer not to add to the mindless chatter that has been taking place in the Apple blog echo chamber, but I would like to say a bit about what I saw.

In Line not Out-Of-Line

I pre-ordered the iPad 1. Given that Apple did not provide pre-orders far in advanced of store purchases for the iPad 2 launch, I decided to wait in line on March 11th. I'm glad that I did, but not because I am writing this on an iPad 2 (black, 64G Verizon, if anyone cares).

I really enjoyed the camaraderie of the many like minded people anxiously awaiting the opening of the pearly gates. But what really struck me was the sheer numbers and attitudes of people there. The queue membership crossed all walks of life (limited to those that had >$500 to spend on a gadget). There were students and teachers and executives and hippies. There were spectacles in togas and pillars in suits. There was every variety of consumer anxiously waiting to pay Apple on launch day for an updated version of a piece of electronics. That is astounding.

It also struck me how seldom this sort of consumer spectacle occurs. The XBox and Playstation are the only other consumer product that I can think of outside of Apple's iOS devices that draw this kind of crowd. It's really quite stunning that one company draws such zeal for an item with an entry price of $500. It's also not a niche of fans either. I was in line next to a small business owner and an apparent high school student. Both were there to purchase the same device with money that obviously did not come easy. What's more, both could not stand to wait to make the purchase. There were audible cheers when the line began to move. It felt like Disneyland.

I also want to point out that not a single person in a line approximately 500 people deep had an argument or security related event. Everyone was just happy to be there in the hopes of getting a new iPad.

Reality Check

I don't want to imply that everyone in line had altruistic motives. On the contrary, a good number of folks were there to buy units to resell on the grey market. That's my supposition, but I do know that the AT&T 3G units sold-out first. This makes sense if you consider that the Verizon models are only useful in North America while the AT&T units can be sold overseas at a premium. A large number of the customers that were ahead of me in line purchased two units (the maximum allowed at launch).

The Big Give Away

I conducted an informal poll of several fellow line-squatters. A handful were buying an iPad 2 to replace their first generation device. That kind of shocked me. I thought I was alone in this approach. I intended to buy a new iPad and donate my "old" device to my father-in-law. I think this will be the new Apple halo effect. Happy iPad 1 users donating their device to family members that would have never bought an iPad. My guess is that those new users will fast become Apple line-standers of the future.