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The flowers bloomed, the air was crisp, and scores of antsy fanatics stood for hours in front of the Apple Store early Friday.
It must be spring — and a new iPad must be on sale.
Nearly a hundred devotees to the Cult of Mac lined up at The Gateway retail outlet in downtown Salt Lake City to be among the first in Utah to get the third generation of the company’s now-ubiquitous computer tablet, dubbed "the new iPad." Sales began at 8 a.m.
"I wanted to be first. I’ve always wanted to be first for some Apple release, and this is the iPad I’ve been waiting for," said 17-year-old Nathan Van Why, of Pleasant Grove, who was at the head of the line after arriving at 9:30 a.m. Thursday.
"We’re nuts," Van Why said. "It’s crazy to spend 22½ hours to get the iPad. You would have to be crazy to wait that long, but it’s worth it."
The new devices reached users nationwide in what has become an annual spring product release for Apple. The tablet also is being sold at all Verizon and AT&T stores. Only a couple of people were waiting at those outlets in The Gateway mall Friday morning. They also were available at the Apple store in Fashion Place Mall in Murray, which also had a line, while some Walmart stores had them on sale hours earlier, shortly after midnight. Most models were still available for sale in both Apple stores by Friday afternoon.
The third iteration of the iPad boasts a higher-resolution "retina display" with four times the number of pixels across its 9.7-inch screen. The device also has a faster graphics processor, more RAM, a better 5-megapixel back camera and is compatible with the faster 4G wireless networks from Verizon and AT&T. The prices range from $499 to $829.
The launch also is the company’s biggest worldwide for the iPad. The U.S. and nine other countries started selling the tablet Friday. Another 25 countries will begin selling it March 23.
The devices have their attraction. "We just like the way they function," Alexa Devereaux, 20, Salt Lake City, said to explain why she waited for more than 12 hours in line for a new iPad. "It’s just an easy system that works together."
Since Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs, who died last October, introduced the iPad in April 2010, the company has sold more than 55 million units of its tablet, launching an additional sector of consumer computing. Since then rivals that include Hewlett-Packard, Samsung and Motorola have tried launching their own Android-based tablets at prices far below that of the iPad. Only the $199 Kindle Fire from Amazon has enjoyed success in the market.
Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster predicted earlier this week that Apple could sell more than 1 million units of the new iPad on the first day, an Apple record. Pre-orders quickly sold out after it was unveiled by Apple CEO Tim Cook on March 7. Shipping for online orders placed Friday will take two to three weeks, according to Apple’s website.
Van Why said he could have pre-ordered his new iPad, but then again, why, he asked?
"I thought about it and decided I would rather wait in line," said Van Why, noting that his only excitement was watching people get parking tickets near the Apple store. "I will be getting the iPad, but half the fun is just waiting."
Apple’s stock stayed even in Friday’s trading at $585 per share.
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