Apple Preparing for iPad Retail Debut

March 28, 2010

Retail preparations have begun for the debut of the iPad this Saturday, as Apple and Best Buy work to balance a limited supply of devices against the expected long lines of eager buyers. Like nearly every previous Apple software and hardware introduction, overnight waiting lines are expected at the stores on April 3rd, composed of first-day tech buyers and Apple “gotta be there” loyalists. The iPad will debut only at Apple’s U.S. stores and at Best Buy stores that have an Apple store-within-a-store or an ASC. The limitation originates from two factors: Apple’s decision to have only informed, trained staffers sell the iPad, and the limited supply of iPads. For Apple’s part, they ended iPad purchase reservations yesterday, apparently receiving enough pre-orders to sell out the initial production of iPads.

Originally Apple said pre-orders could be picked up at Apple’s stores on April 3rd, or would ship from the on-line store that same day. Now availability has slipped back to April 12th for the on-line store, and iPad availability will undoubtedly be spotty at the retail stores. Insiders say all in-store events have been cancelled for April 3rd, staffing will be beefed up and arrangements made for dual waiting lines—one for walk-in purchases and another for reserved iPad purchases. Apple and Best Buy stores will open at 9 a.m.  to begin selling the iPad. Those who have reserved an iPad for in-store pick-up will have only until 5 p.m. to pick up the device. After that, the iPad will be released for walk-in buyers.

Best Buy will have a extremely limited number of iPads for sale—reportedly just five each of the three Wi-Fi configurations for each store carrying the iPad, of which there are over 600 out of 1,032 stores in the chain. The Web site has posted Best Buy plans for the iPad debut telling local managers, “Customers will line up at your store prior to opening,” and warning them to “build a distribution and redemption plan to eliminate customer disappoints.”

It’s likely that Apple will post a store-by-store “availability” Web page for the iPad by April 3rd, as they have done previously for limited supplies of new iPhone models. Apple has announce their stores will offer a “Personal Setup” service for every iPad buyer. Also, starting Saturday morning, the company says they’ll be offering “special iPad workshops to help customers learn more about this magical product.”

ZDNet reports that the iPad is not eligible for the routine 10 percent discount offered to Apple retail store employees. They also were not eligible to reserve an iPad for in-store pick-up. The rules are apparently intended to maximize availability of the iPad for customers.

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