After nine days of waiting, customers can get their hands on a new iPad today. Those who jumped on the pre-order train last week will be watching for the delivery truck, but anyone who isn't already on Apple's lengthening wait list will have to hustle if they want an iPad.
So how do you score an iPad? Listen up . . .
How do I get an iPad with the least effort? Order one from Apple. Sure, that won't put it in your hands today -- the delay between ordering and shipping remains two to three weeks -- but you won't have to lift anything heavier than your credit card.
But I want one now . . . How's that going to happen? You can get in line at an Apple store. The good news there is that Apple's own outlets will have the largest stock of iPads to sell. The bad news? You're not the only one who knows that.
According to numerous news reports, lines began forming Thursday outside stores in the U.S., France, Germany, the U.K. and elsewhere. Your mileage, as they say, may vary, but you may encounter crowds or sell-outs.
Apple's stores will open at 8 a.m. local time , an hour or two earlier than usual. So you should already be reading this while you're in line.
Other than Apple, what brick-and-mortar stores will sell the iPad today? In the U.S., the list runs like this: Best Buy, Radio Shack, Sam's Club, Target, and Wal-Mart. Inventory will vary by chain -- and within each chain, by store -- so your game plan should start with calling ahead to save yourself the misery of driving from Trenton to Timbuktu, only to return empty-handed.
Some of those stores will beat or at least match Apple's opening hour.
Wal-Mart, for example, told Bloomberg that some stores were going to start selling the 16GB Wi-Fi tablet at 12:01 a.m., and eight hours before Apple. The big box retailer may still have some available by the time you read this.
Wal-Mart's even-bigger-box-store, Sam's Club, which will also have a limited supply, will open at 7 a.m. local time.
Target opens at 8 a.m. in most locations.
Where do I find the those stores? Man, do we have to do everything for you? (Of course we do. So here are links to each chain's store finder.)
Customers line up to enter a branch of M1 Limited, a telecommunications company in Singapore, to purchase the third-generation iPad during its launch early Friday. (Reuters photo by Tim Chong)
Where's the best place, other than Apple, to score an iPad? We can only guess, mind you, but of the retailers that will be selling the tablet, Radio Shack is the one most likely to escape notice, if only because most consumers don't even know the chain sells Apple gear.
What about a carrier store? Smart question. In the U.S., AT&T and Verizon will both sell the iPad with both Wi-Fi and 4G -- prices start at $529 -- in their retail stores starting Friday.
Verizon's in-store sales kick off at 8 a.m. local time. AT&T hasn't spelled out special opening times, but most of its locations start business at 9 a.m. local time.
Money's no object, but time is. If I don't want to stand in line, where can I get one the fastest? Sounds like you're a candidate for the profiteers turning around pre-ordered iPads on eBay.
Scads of people who got in line, online, last week while Apple was still promising March 16 delivery are trying to flip iPads on eBay at a tidy profit. We found hundreds on the auction site, some with eye-boggling Buy It Now prices. But we did see new 16GB Wi-Fi iPads offered in the $600-$700 range, including one for the "low" price of $605.95 .
Most of those sellers say that they will ship the iPad to the buyer the same day they receive it -- in other words, today -- or the next.
You could have it in your suddenly-cash-free hands as early as Monday.
Any other ideas? We suppose you could lurk outside an Apple store with a line longer than a Friday night wait at Olive Garden, then offer an unseemly wad of cash to people as they walk out with one in the bag. But that's just kind of creepy.
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer , on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is email@example.com.
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This story, "Get an iPad Today: FAQ" was originally published by Computerworld.