Apple's much-anticipated iPad goes on sale

Between 50 and 100 people lined up at Crabtree mall to buy Apple's newest gadget, even though the iPad has been available for pre-order online.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Crowds lined up at Triangle malls before Apple Inc.'s newest gadget went on sale Saturday morning.

Between 50 to 100 people lined up before the Apple store in Crabtree mall, on Glenwood Avenue in Raleigh, opened at 10 a.m. The line quickly grew shorter once the store opened.

The highly anticipated tablet computer was available for pre-order online, but scores of people still lined up outside Apple Stores and Best Buy outlets across the country Saturday. Apple hasn't said how many iPads it sold in advance of its debut.

Apple's store on New York's Fifth Avenue had a party-like atmosphere, with employees cheering and clapping as customers entered and left. Some Europeans flew into New York from Europe because the iPad won't go on sale there for a few more weeks.

Carlos Herrera, a school teacher from Barcelona, Spain, said he wants to show his colleagues how the device can be used in classrooms. He has turned his iPad trip into a weeklong vacation.

Siggi Manz, a software developer who lives near Frankfurt, Germany, was spending just 20 hours in New York to snag one so he could start writing iPad applications for his fitness center clients. Manz, who already carries Apple's MacBook Pro and iPhone, said the iPad would be ideal for note-taking.

Some of these initial iPad buyers were drawn by the ability to read electronic books, watch video and run a myriad of useful or fun applications, including Scrabble.

The iPad is essentially a much larger version of Apple's popular iPhone, without the calling capabilities. The new device is a half-inch thick, weighs 1.5 pounds and has a touch screen that measures 9.7 inches on the diagonal – nearly three times the iPhone's. Also like the iPhone, it has no physical keyboard but sports an accelerometer, which lets gamers tilt the device to control what's happening on the screen.

For now, Apple is selling versions of the iPad that can only connect to the Internet using Wi-Fi. Those models start at $499. Versions that also have a cellular data connection will be available by the end of the month. They will cost $130 more, with the most expensive at $829.

Although early adopters gush about all the ways they hope to use the iPad – casual Web browsing, sharing photos, reading books – skeptics point to all the ways the iPad comes up short.

They argue the on-screen keyboard is hard to use and complain that it lacks a camera and ports for media storage cards and USB devices such as printers. They also bemoan the fact that the iPad can't play Flash video, which means many Web sites with embedded video clips will look broken to Web surfers using Apple's Safari browser. The iPad can't run more than one program at a time, which even fans hope will change one day soon.

San Francisco tattoo artist Max Ackermann is convinced the iPad will "define a giant change in how we perceive computers in general and how we deal with them on a daily basis. It's really cool to be a part of that beginning. The iPhone feels just like a trial right now compared with the iPad."

Ackermann looked forward to seeing how the iPad evolves. "It's definitely in its baby years," he said.


Anne Johnson, Web Editor

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