Friday, 28 May 2010

Taking a bite out of Apple

Ok, let's call this an experiment. Diligent readers of this blog may have noticed a mysterious absence of posts last night.
That's because I needed an early start this morning so that I could be part of a pop-culture phenom.

This blog is coming to you live from Westfield London where people have been queuing overnight to get their hands on the latest little object of desire. The Apple iPad goes on sale in one minute and excitement outside the Apple store is at fever pitch. Actually, that's a slight exaggeration. To be honest, it all seems rather muted - half of the crowd look like they're only here because their car broke down outside.

It's a very different story inside the Apple store which, until a few moments ago, was hidden mysteriously behind swathes of black paper. The staff are whooping and hollering for their media team like howler monkeys on meow-meow. Still, in times of credit crunchery, it must be heartwarming to work in retail and see customers lining up around the block outside your store. Even if it is strangely reminiscent of the depression-era soup kitchen queues.

A barista from Sacred has just poured me an Americano, courtesy of Apple. Despite the fact that Westfield's coffee shops normally seem like the embodiment of chaos theory, they seem to have a rather well organised system in place. One guy takes your order, writes it on a cup with your name, and by the time you reach the next corner your drink is ready. Not the nicest coffee I've ever had (it's as bitter as Heather Mills) but it's the thought that counts.

All through the queue, balding thirty-something men (cough) are Tweeting their updates, doing time-checks, and trying to work out whether Apple will have enough stock to meet the needs of all the shuffling techno-whores loosely assembled around the atrium. Apple staff are now doing the rounds, handing out bottles of water, presumably to wash away the taste of the coffee. It's a nice thought, but it's not as though the crowd is in danger of collapsing from heat exhaustion.

As the door gets closer, the first few satisfied customers are emerging with drawstring bags over their shoulders. No-one's screaming, crying or waving their new iPad over their heads. But then, it's never really been about the product. Even the journalists who've been filling the papers with breathlessly excitable reviews can't agree what it's for. As they keep saying - you just have to find out for yourself. Today is all about the brand, the experience, being first.

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