Apple has been turning its product launches into "events" for decades, and this marketing strategy has been extended to include users queuing up outside its stores. In the iPad 2's case, it would be much more efficient to take pre-orders online, but Apple has decided against doing this in the US.
Instead, it will deliberately create unnecessary queues, turning the US on-sale of March 11* into an event that will be reported favourably by America's relatively supine news media, no doubt with a cameo appearance by Apple co-founder The Woz.
As The Orange View blog points out: "It means that all the demand and excitement built up for the second generation iPad will be squeezed into a single day of buying pressure instead of being spread out over a week."
But more than that, it will convert private buying into public buying, and perhaps create something of a herd effect.
Of course, this approach is by no means limited to Apple. By far the biggest multi-continental example was Microsoft's launch of Windows 95. This featured lots of utterly pointless queuing for an operating system that, in its Chicago beta version, vast numbers of people had been using for months. The gratuitous launch queue may still have some value in getting pale-faced gamers out of the house at midnight, but it's really not the best Microsoft idea for Apple to copy.
* The UK launch is on March 25.