Apple iPad launch day

Apple's new tablet goes on sale in the U.S. at 9 a.m. Saturday in all time zones. Keep checking back here for coverage from stores in New York, San Francisco, and Palo Alto, Calif.

Apple iPad
A person enters text on the iPad. James Martin/CNET

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The reviews are in on Apple's iPad. And starting Saturday, you can actually get your hands on one.

In the days preceding the April 3 launch of the Wi-Fi version of the iPad in the U.S., there hasn't been the same kind of line-waiting frenzy as with past releases of the the iPhone: few are camping out ahead of time.

That's likely because those who wanted to snag an iPad the first day had the option to have it shipped to them--for free. But those who didn't plan ahead, or only recently got the must-buy-it bug, will have to go into an Apple Store or a Best Buy to make their purchase.

CNET's got a team covering the launch: Greg Sandoval in New York City, Erica Ogg and James Martin in San Francisco, and Josh Lowensohn in Palo Alto, Calif. Follow along with our live blog below.

Sandoval, 8:15 a.m. EDT at New York's Fifth Avenue Apple Store: In the final hours before the iPad went on sale, the line out in front of the store saw a little controversy.

Greg Packer , the retired highway worker who says he began waiting in line since Tuesday to ensure he would be first to walk out with the device, learned on Friday that those who had preordered an iPad would be first to enter.

The person who is in position to be allowed into the store first, with less than an hour to go before Apple starts letting people in, is Richard Gutjahr, a blogger from Germany.

Packer says he represents the fans who were willing to wait in line, but that's going to ring hollow to some because Packer, 46, may not be the best representative of Apple's truest fans. He's a well-known "line sitter," who spends much of his time appearing first at public events in hopes he will be interviewed.

Greg Packer (in hat), who stood in front of Apple's Fifth Avenue store for days to buy an iPad receives free gear from a vendor. Greg Sandoval/CNET

Sandoval, 9:59 a.m. EDT: Sure enough, it is the blogger from Germany who emerged from the Apple "cube" store here with the first iPad in hand. Gutjahr said he was eager to try the device to see whether it will be the kind of machine that can bring old media into a new media world.

The media greeted Richard Gutjahr (in middle, head down), the first to buy an iPad at Apple's flagship New York store. Greg Sandoval/CNET

Gutjahr emerged within 10 minutes, and Apple moved the first buyers in and out quickly. That's a good sign. Some of the iPhone launches were marked by delays in their first few hours.

Gutjahr holds up his iPad. Greg Sandoval/CNET Networks

Sandoval, 10:25 a.m. EDT: Missing this year from the iPad launch are the long lines. For the release of the iPhone and iPhone 3G, the lines to get into Apple's store were blocks long. This time it appears that most people waiting were those who had preordered. Regardless, hundreds were waiting in each of two lines Apple formed for people with preorders and people without.

Again, Apple is used to seeing thousands in line. But it's hard to say whether the acceptance of preorders was the main reason for the lack of crowds.

At the iPhone launches, this area near the Apple store on Fifth Avenue was swarming with people. Greg Sandoval/CNET

Sandoval, 10:32 a.m. EDT: Packer is rewarded for some of his troubles. He's paid $25 to wear a company's logo on his hat.

Sandoval, 11:25 a.m. EDT: Philip Trass of Germany (Germans must be huge Apple fans) said he preordered two 32GB iPads. According to Trass, Apple's transaction process took just a few minutes. The whole process, including standing in line took 40 minutes for him.

Philip Trass with his two 32GB iPads. Apple was zipping people in and out at its Fifth Avenue store.

Lowensohn, 8:10 a.m. PDT at Palo Alto's Apple Store: The lineup here began Friday in the early afternoon. By now, it's already stretched all the way around the store. Among those in line is Chatroulette founder Andrey Ternovskiy, all the way from Russia. Also on the scene is blog IntoMobile, which has been live broadcasting its line-sitting experience since early Friday afternoon.

Those who stayed in line overnight got to enjoy a generator to plug in their gadgets--at least for a few hours until it was turned off by police.

iPad hunters queue up in front of the Apple store in downtown Palo Alto. Those at the front of the line got there in the early afternoon on Friday. Josh Lowensohn/CNET

Ogg, 8:40 a.m. PDT at San Francisco's Union Square/Stockton Street Apple Store: It's not quite the spectacle here this morning that it's been for iPhone launches in years past. There are two lines here, as expected: the preorder folks and the walk-in folks. There are under 200 people in the preorder line right now, and probably 90 in the walk-in. Those at the front of the preorder line--who had the option to have it shipped home instead of waiting in line--got here at 1 a.m.

The queue at the Union Square/Stockton Street Apple store started growing considerably early Saturday morning. James Martin/CNET

"Waiting at home for FedEx is for the weak," joked one guy.

As with past iPhone launch events where customers have camped out, Apple employees are handing out water and coffee to the iPad fans here.

Currently, we can hear the Apple employees, shouting and cheering inside the store--which currently has blacked-out windows. They are counting down (New Year's Eve style). After they get to "1!" they drop the blackout curtain on the front of the store to show the new iPad window displays.

At around 8:30 a.m. PDT, the black curtain dropped at San Francisco's Union Square/Stockton Street store. And those outside came face to face with the applause of about 50 Apple Store employees. James Martin/CNET

Ogg, 8:55 a.m. PDT: The line for those who preordered now stretches around the corner halfway down O'Farrell Street. And the crush of photographers and reporters is blocking the entire front of the store.

Ogg, 9:00 a.m. PDT : After yet another employee-led countdown, the doors are open. The first customers begin trickling into the Apple Store, as employees cheer them on.

Lowensohn, 9:30 a.m. PDT in Palo Alto: The line here has grown considerably, and most of those people have not preordered an iPad.

Many of those waiting whom we talked to were buying the 64GB model, but said that they would be fine with going for a lower capacity model if the 64GB were sold out by the time we got to the front. Many also said they didn't want to wait for the 3G model since they already had an iPhone or another type of cell phone with wireless data.

One of the most interesting use cases for the device went to an English couple, who plan to keep it on their living room coffee table as both a digital photo frame, and as a replacement to their existing pile of coffee table books. They also opted not to wait to get the 3G model, since they were worried about being able to get a subscription for it while abroad.

Also making a guest appearance was Apple's senior vice president of iPhone software, Scott Forstall. He snapped some photos of the crowd and chatted with Apple employees.

Apple's senior vice president of iPhone software, Scott Forstall, chats with an Apple store employee, and takes a few shots of the growing iPad line. Josh Lowensohn/CNET

First to get an iPad in Palo Alto was blogger Robert Scoble, who had been here since 11 a.m. Friday. Scoble and others in line had an impromptu barbecue at 2 a.m., Saturday and had the aforementioned gas-powered generator to juice up their gadgets.

Blogger Robert Scoble raises one of his two iPads to the crowd. Scoble was first in line at the Palo Alto store, arriving almost a full day before the store opened. Josh Lowensohn/CNET

Ogg, 9:46 a.m. PDT in San Francisco: Both lines are flowing pretty smoothly. The supply for walk-ins appears to be holding up for now. As the first customers are emerging from the store, many are immediately opening their shiny new iPads and showing them off for the cameras.

Others are ducking away quickly. One young man ran past me and said to his friend, "I just met Jonny Ive! Yessssss." (Ive, btw, is Apple senior vice president of industrial design.)

Ogg, 10:10 a.m. PDT: In chatting with iPad buyers, a surprising number of people are telling me that they plan to use the iPad as their primary computer. "I'm going to do everything with it," said Katrina Forck of San Francisco. "It's going to replace my laptop."

Matthieu Thouvenin, who got in line at 4:30 a.m., said he'd use it more than his laptop, especially in his living room. "It'll replace my laptop at home. For when I'm on the couch, I can check e-mail, be online." But he really only plans on using it at home, which is why he opted for the Wi-Fi version. "It's going to stay at home, so I don't really need 3G."

An Apple Store "genius" stands in front of a wall full of iPads at the Palo Alto Apple Store. Josh Lowensohn / CNET

Lowensohn, 11:20 a.m. PDT in Palo Alto: The walk-in line at this store now lasts around a half an hour, and there are still what appear to be plenty of iPads in stock.

One iPad purchaser, Kathy Corby is an emergency room doctor at Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital in Hollister, Calif. Corby said she's been using her iPhone in the E.R. for years. "It's inseparable from me. It's in the pocket of my white coat all the time. I don't think I could function for more than a half hour in my E.R. without one," she said.

As for the iPad, Corby said she's getting one not just for herself but to share with the nurses she works with, who often use their own iPhones or borrow hers to use a handful of specialized medical applications. "The nurses come to me and say, 'Double check the dose on this. I'm starting a dopamine drip. Please look it up!' and I get the iPhone out and that's the way it happens." Corby plans to get a 3G model next month so as to have one that will can look up data from the medical apps she uses on a daily basis, even when away from a Wi-Fi hot spot.

E.R. doctor Kathy Corby shows us one of several pages of the medical apps she has installed on her iPhone. She plans to use her new iPad to access them as well. Josh Lowensohn/CNET

Corby is also creating an iPad app for living wills that she hopes to release in the next few weeks. She said it will let people of any age go through a step-by-step set-up that lets them determine what kind of medical outcome they want for various life-threatening situations. It will also be localized for each state, so as to be in compliance with whatever local laws or stipulations are in place.

On a completely different note, developer Smule was on hand here to show off the latest music entertainment app called Magic Piano that turns the iPad into a large touchscreen piano. Smule's "mule" gave those waiting in line for an iPad a go at playing with the app.

Smule's "mule" gives those in line a chance to play with the iPad, and with the developer's new 'Magic Piano' app. Josh Lowensohn/CNET

 

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