Sunday, April 04, 2010

My iPad Adventure

As I mentioned in a previous post, when iPads became available for reservation at Apple stores, I reserved one at the Century City Apple Store. The e-mail informed me that I had to pick it up between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. With the media whipping itself into a frenzy about the device, I decided to show up early if I woke up early Saturday morning. I did, and I did. I bicycled over and showed up at Century City around 7:15 a.m.

I headed to the Apple store, where an employee promptly showed up and informed me and the two other folks waiting outside that the actual line was elsewhere. She led us to the line, which was actually all the way across the shopping center plaza from the Apple store -- just west of the pedestrian bridge over Avenue of the Stars. She divided the people there into reserved and non-reserved lines. We in the reserved line had the advantage of a concrete curb (albeit a cold one) to sit on.

Almost immediately, there was a ruckus. Apparently a gentleman in a black sport coat took his place at the front of the unreserved line. Folks at the front of the reserved line stated that they had been there since 6:30 a.m., and this fellow was not there before those just behind him. I didn't listen to all that went on, but he purportedly said something to the effect of what are you going to do about it. The security guard who was present looked disinclined to step in unless blows were thrown, which seemed likely in light of the insults hurled by sleep-deprived, excited Apple fans. Eventually the man relented and went to the back of the line -- a mere seven people back.

A little after 8 a.m., Apple employees hauled out a table and some airpots with coffee, along with condiments, and invited line-folks to indulge. One fellow promptly filled his thermal mug, which earned him an admonishment from an employee.

During the wait, I read the novel BONESHAKER on my Nook. I had prepared myself for catcalls from the Apple faithful for bringing another tablet device to an iPad event. I had nothing to fear. The woman behind me was reading from her Kindle.

As we waited, a man and woman in front of me pulled out a stack of postcards and began distributing them to the crowd. The cards advertised a note-taking app to be released in the future for the iPad. Another fellow in line, who ran a tech blog, interviewed the app developer. Using postcards to advertise electronic apps seemed so, well, 20th Century.

As the 9 a.m. store opening neared, store employees stated they would take the reserved line up in groups of 10. At around 9:45, they would start admitting those in the non-reserved line. They said they had only a few non-reserved iPads, but would be getting a new shipment in mid-day.

I was #9 in line, so I ended up in the first group to be taken to the store. They marched us over. Several group members were taking videos with their iPhones as we walked. The employee charged with our group parked us in front of the store. The store windows, formerly blacked out, were now filled with demo iPads on pedestals, their displays spinning. As we waited, several people tried to join the back of our line; we had to gently tell them that the actual line was far to the east of us.

I joined the folks taking videos -- except that I was using a Droid. Once again, the feared catcalls failed to materialize.

As we waited, employees brought out a selection of cases, from Apple and third-party vendors. We passed these from hand to hand; the poor woman behind me ended up holding a stack of them, which she dutifully passed back to the employee.

Then, we were let in. (The Blogger version of this post has a video of our entrance, which I also posted on Facebook yesterday.)


They let us past a rope one by one. An employee found my name on the reserved list, and pressed me to order accessories. I picked an Apple-made flat case, and a VGA adaptor. She then handed me my iPad, and another employee set it up on an instore computer. The employees directed me to download the iBook app, which is free but for some reason isn't included on the device. I then became the guinea pig for a trainer who was giving iPad tours; he sat me down while he gave his Keynote presentation on the device (complete with canned notes he was reading for the first time). As he talked, I heard repeated rounds of applause for each group of ten customers. The applause was getting less and less enthusiastic as the employees' initial glee started wearing off.

Once I was out of the store, I felt a creeping sense of paranoia about my new acquisition -- and the possibility that an iPad-crazed shopper might swipe it. I stuck it in my backpack and biked home.

How do I like the iPad? Well, I've been using it since yesterday, and I'd like to use it a bit more before I give my opinion. My preliminary take: It's fantastic for consumption; not as useful for creation. After all, I'm typing this on my desktop computer.

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