Fans queue overnight as Apple’s iPad goes on sale

IN the basement of Paris’s Louvre museum, the early line for Apple’s iPad far surpassed that for entry to see the Mona Lisa.

Hundreds queued up at the Apple store in the Carrousel du Louvre shopping centre in the museum complex, with staff cheering every purchase, as sales outside the US of the tablet computer began.

And in Belfast, gadget fans who queued all night outside the Apple store yesterday became some of the first people in Ireland to buy an iPad.

With the latest must-have item not expected to go on sale in the Republic untilJuly, would-be customers travelled north to join other devotees keen to be amongthe first to get their hands on the new touch-screen computer.

And one committed fan, who queued overnight, said Apple staff in the company’s store in the North did all they could to heighten the drama.

Lisa McCormack, 27, from Lisburn on the outskirts of Belfast, said: “A black curtain was put up in front of the store so we could not see in, but at around 7am we got free coffee sent round from Starbucks, before the curtain fell.

“Everyone cheered and we were all ‘high-fived’ as we walked in. It was great craic.”

In Sydney, fans braved the chill of the Southern Hemisphere autumn to be among the first to buy the device, while in Tokyo people waited for as long as 40 hours to make a purchase.

“I tried to buy one in Seattle when I was there about 15 days ago, but they were sold out; so I decided to wait till it came to Europe,” said Julien Boidin, 28, who works for Microsoft in Paris. “I live in Normandy and commute four hours a day. I needed something for the train ride.”

Following the sale of one million of the devices in less than a month of its April 3 debut in the US, the iPad is now available in Australia, Canada, Japan and six European countries.

The maker of the iPhone and iPod, which this week became the world’s most valuable technology company, has popularised a new category of computer between a smartphone and a laptop. Apple may sell 8 million iPads this year, according to Royal Bank of Canada.

“The thing with Apple is it’s not just a piece of technology, it’s actually the whole experience,” said Rahul Koduri from Sydney, who arrived at 2am to be first in line. “They just fit into your lifestyle so well.”

The company, based in California, delayed the release of iPads outside the US after underestimating demand at home. In Europe, the iPad is available in Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and Britain.

Apple is betting the iPad, which starts at €499 in continental Europe, will entice enough consumers willing to pay a premium over low-cost notebooks.

Rivals such as Microsoft have failed to turn tablet computers into popular consumer devices.

“I don’t really need it, but I want it,” said Jake Lee, 17, who camped overnight outside the store on London’s Regent Street.

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