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Apple pilot program to loan iPads to retail employees

A new pilot program at one of Apple's biggest retail stores is giving employees a chance to check out loaner iPads for use at home.

CNET's Dan Ackerman using an iPad.
CNET's Dan Ackerman using an iPad

Apple this past week detailed plans to introduce an interesting new program that gives its retail employees a chance to "check out" iPads like they would a library book, CNET has learned.

The future program, which one source described as a "pilot," is designed to let employees borrow from a stock of loaner devices. Employees can then use the device freely for one week before having to return it to the store, allowing for others to use it.

At the moment, the loaner program is only set for Apple's flagship store in San Francisco, and it's unclear whether it will it will go on to make its way to other stores, or include other products.

An Apple spokesman declined to comment on or verify the existence of the program.

Apple is well-known for its customer service, which has helped push the company into record revenue. This new program plays into that customer service angle, helping salespeople get to know the products better.

We haven't heard of Apple doing this with other products. If anything, it's been big news when the company has provided its employees with gadgets to actually keep, as it did in 2007 with the original iPhone. In this case, the iPad makes a particularly good candidate as it's become the company's hot new gadget, handily overtaking Mac sales in the year and a half since its release, second only to the iPhone. More recently, Apple made it a fixture next to all the products in its retail stores in theform of digital signage as part of a company-wide initiative that rolled out in May.

Corrected at 6:37 p.m. PT to note that the loaner program is not yet live.