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For eager buyers of Apple iPad, morning lines are worth it

Pat-fallis

Pat Fallis, who'd been standing in line at The Grove Apple Store since 2 .a.m., shows his excitement at being the first one let in to buy a new iPad. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times.

Amid an atmosphere of carefully cultivated euphoria, hundreds of Apple fans waited in line eagerly at the Grove on Saturday morning, excited to get their hands on some of the first of Apple's new iPad tablet computers. 

"It's a new member of the family!" said Pat Fallis, a Los Angeles producer who, along with his wife and a friend, had been waiting in line since 2 a.m.  Fallis was the first to buy an iPad at the store, and along with many of the others who waited patiently for hours, was greeted by a crowd of blue-shirted Apple employees with cheers and high fives, as though being welcomed onto the football field.

The store quickly filled up with buyers, who were ushered to shelves, and then to checkout areas by store clerks, who themselves were armed with special iPhones with infrared scanners that expedited the sales process.  Thereafter, new iPad owners were shown how to log in to the device to begin surfing the Web, receiving e-mail, and playing with the device's applications.

Apple has sought to portray the iPad as a next-generation computing device -- without a keyboard or a mouse, the flat tablet is essentially a large touch screen where all interaction comes from the users' fingers -- tapping here, dragging there to open windows and manipulate objects on the screen. It is designed to offer most types of media -- television, books, games, music, Web pages -- as well as providing communications features like e-mail and Twitter.

Eli-mater-and-muffin
Eli Matar and Muffin, both "Mac" fans. Credit: Irfan Khan / LAT.
The models on sale this week are Wi-Fi equipped, and start at $499.  Apple will release a more expensive line of 3G cellular iPads later this month, which will cost as much as $829 and require a monthly data plan of up to $30.

Many of these early adopters were clear Apple die-hards.  Eli Matar, a jeweler from L.A., wore a shirt that said, "Hi. I'm a Mac," a reference to Apple's series of pro-Mac, anti-PC commercials.  Matar was holding his Maltese -- Muffy -- who wore a tiny dog shirt that read, "I'm a Mac, too!"

How did he know Muffin preferred Apple products?

"She sticks to me, not my roommate -- and he's a PC," said Matar.

This year, the line was a target for marketers hawking their iPad-related wares too.  A man in thick dreadlocks roamed alongside the stanchions, handing out free samples of a product called iBallz: a contraption made of four foam balls, each of which attaches to a corner of the iPad.  "You can drop it, kick it, whatever, and it'll be fine," said the man.  He was quickly escorted out by security.

Though lines at Apple and some Best Buy stores around Los Angeles indicated early interest in the device, the true test will come after the initial hype dies down.

“We have to weed through all the Apple-philes to see what’s what,” said Francis Sideco, an analyst at El Segundo-based iSuppli, a tech research firm. “What will really tell us how it’s going is how it sustains itself after this initial wave.”

Fallis, the first buyer, was a veteran line-waiter, having made it to the Grove for the launch of all three version of the iPhone, and now the iPad. 

Asked if she was as excited about the iPad as her husband, Mary Fallis answered, "No one's as excited as he is!"

Fallis2

Fallis' wife, Mary says, "No one's as excited about it as he is!" Credit: Irfan Khan / LAT.

Correction, 12:12pm: An earlier version of this post said the high-end 3G iPad will retail for $899 -- the correct price is $829.

-- David Sarno

 
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