Apple's new iPad went on sale in China on Friday morning with a sparse, but orderly, line of people at one of its stores in Beijing, as the company used a new reservation system to sell the next version of its iconic tablet, to avoid the skirmishes that hit some earlier product launches.
The Apple store in Beijing's Sanlitun district was very quiet at 6:45 a.m. local time, over an hour before the first-day sale of the company's new iPad, with no customers yet in line. In contrast, previous launches have seen massive throngs of people, numbering in the hundreds, waiting through the morning and even the night to buy the company's latest product.
But unlike previous launches, where it was on a first come, first service basis, Apple has used a reservation system this time around to sell its newest product to customers in mainland China. Each morning, the company is giving customers a three-hour window to register for a limited number of reservations at its Beijing and Shanghai company stores. Those who successfully receive a reservation are then told the time to arrive at the designated Apple store to buy the new iPad.
On Friday, the new reservation system eliminated much of the crowd, with about 30 customers in line minutes before Apple's Sanlitun store opened at 8 a.m. local time. Apple employees were checking customers' IDs, and allowing them to enter the store in small groups. Apple declined to state how many reservations it was granting to customers each day.
Ye Huafei, 33, was the first in line and arrived at the Apple store at 7 a.m. "I didn't think many people would come to the launch," he said, noting the new reservation system that was in place. "I think they should do it this way again for future sales."
Apple's Sanlitun store in Beijing was previously the sight of a nasty scuffle in January during Apple's iPhone 4S launch in the country. Hundreds had waited through the cold morning, only to be later told the store would not open, with Apple giving no explanation. This caused an irate customer to throw eggs at the store, which led Apple to temporarily suspend all iPhone 4S sales at its company stores in China.
Consumer interest in Apple's new iPad, however, is expected to be diminished when compared to the iPhone 4S or previous iPad launches in the country, according to Nicole Peng, an analyst with research firm Canalys.
A major reason is because the new iPad is being sold in China four months after it was initially launched in the U.S. Consumers wanting to buy it, would have bought the device from the country's gray market vendors, who buy the product overseas and bring it to China to sell locally.
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