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Diehard Apple fans line up way in advance for N.Y. store opening

Just because there's no product being launched doesn't mean people haven't gone wild for Apple's latest: a three-story megastore in downtown Manhattan.

The start of the Apple Store line snaking around the front of the store. You can't actually see most of the line, as it's off to the left; security was in the process of crowd control. Caroline McCarthy/CNET
Fanboy alert! iPod and MacBook Pro spotted in line... Caroline McCarthy/CNET

It was freezing cold and snow was starting to come down, but at 2:30 p.m. EST there were already several hundred people waiting in line at the new Apple Store on West 14th St. in Manhattan's Meatpacking District, which which opens at 6 p.m. One estimate put the crowd at about 600 people with several hours still to go.

The first person in line, a high schooler, had showed up at 1 a.m. That's not a typo. He told CNET that by 3:30 or 4 a.m., more people started to join him. But the line really started to take off in the early afternoon, as students were let out for the weekend (some schools in the area close early on Fridays) and grown-up Apple fans cleared out of their offices in favor of lining up in the freezing cold.

Yeah, here's the end of the line. With three hours to go. Caroline McCarthy/CNET

Apple events are known for generating long lines well in advance--just look at the lines that formed for the Leopard operating system and the highly anticipated iPhone. But there's no product being released this time--it's just the opening of a new store.

So why wait? Well, Apple's given some incentives. "Come celebrate with us this Friday as we'll be giving away thousands of limited-edition posters and commemorative T-shirts," the store's Web site invited tantalizingly. "You might even win one of several great surprise gifts such as an iMac, a MacBook Pro, or an iPod Touch."

Sweet! Count me in! Caroline McCarthy/CNET

As we've seen with many launch events that draw lengthy queues, many of the people in line were "tag-teaming" with friends, one waiting while the other went to grab food, coffee, or just headed for an indoor space to thaw up. And one local business was capitalizing on the freezing masses: the T Salon, located in the nearby Chelsea Market shopping complex, was distributing free cups of chai to anyone in line.

Also spotted: An establishment across the street, Comix Bar, was pricing apple martinis at half price for happy hour in celebration of the Apple Store launch. Good to know Jobs & Co. are welcome in the neighborhood.