Cheers as iPad hits US shelves

Crowds wait in line to grab Apples much-awaited gadget; pre-orders plenty

Cheers as iPad hits US shelves

Got it: Mike Heinsius, of Rotterdam, the Netherlands, holds up his new iPad outside the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue in New York on Saturday. AP

At Apple’s flagship store on Fifth Avenue in New York City, cheers went up as shoppers finally entered the store at 9 am (1300 GMT), emerging a few minutes later carrying the first iPads, a device touted as a bridge between a laptop and smartphone.

Toni Di Giorno, 66, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, said she had waited in line since 5 am on Friday with her daughter and granddaughter. “They were really excited about getting an iPad,” she said.

Crowds built steadily at stores around the country beginning early Friday, with shoppers waiting at locations in New York, Washington, Boston and San Francisco. But the lines were noticeably shorter than those that ushered in the iPhone in 2007. Matt Reidy, IT director at a company called snagajob.com, said he got there at 1 am and was first in line. “My wife thinks I’m crazy,” said Reidy, 43. “She said I’d be the oldest person out there.”

Pre-orders reduce rush

Indeed, with many able to pre-order the gadget since mid-March, there was little reason to stand in line before Saturday’s launch. Those who ordered early enough online get their iPads on Saturday, via pickup at a store or home delivery. Analysts say the company has already received several hundred thousand pre-orders.

Apple has plenty riding on the iPad, which it calls a new category of device: a lightweight media consumption device that tries to fuse the best attributes of a smartphone and a laptop.

The iPad’s touchscreen measures 25 cm. At 680 gm, the device resembles an oversized iPhone and runs on the same operating system. It starts at $499 for a short-range Wi-Fi model, topping out at more than $800 for a 3G-enabled version.

The iPad is designed for using media of all sorts, including games, video, pictures, electronic books and magazines.

The big question is whether the iPad can attract a mainstream following beyond the first few months of excitement and into next year. Technology enthusiasts have praised the iPad’s beautiful screen and fast Web browser, but also have pointed out that it lacks a camera, cannot run more than one app at a time, and it cannot view video sites that use Adobe’s Flash software.

Saturday’s launch is only in the US, and only for the Wi-Fi model. It will be available in nine other countries later this month.

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