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Apple's new iPad launch in Tokyo

This morning the iPad 3 launches across the world, and 14 hours ahead of the U.S., Japan’s launch is already underway.
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1 of 5 Hana Stewart-Smith/ZDNET

The store had plenty of display models ready for customers to have a play with, and the other products in the store went virtually untouched as people crowded around to try the new iPad. I had a play around myself, and I was impressed by the new screen resolution; an upgrade that already makes the new generation of iPad look very impressive.

I got to check out the sound quality by messing around DJing for a few minutes, and when an Apple store employee told me he had seen DJ’s in Tokyo clubs using the iPad for shows before, I wasn’t at all surprised.

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The first two floors of Ginza’s Apple store were both dedicated to sales for the launch. Ginza was the first international Apple store, and is one of only two official stores in Tokyo. Ginza is considered to be the big shopping district of Tokyo, and customers had apparently been lining up outside the store for at least two nights before the launch.

ith around 250 staff members in store, it is easy to see that the staff almost outnumbered the customers at times, with a sea of blue t-shirts on every floor. An effective strategy, as I’m pretty sure I didn’t see any customers walking around looking for assistance for more than a minute.

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3 of 5 Hana Stewart-Smith/ZDNET

I was surprised to find that the third floor of the store was a dedicated 'theatre’, with demonstrations going on throughout the day on how to set up the new iPad. The audience was filled with new customers tweaking their buy whilst it was still in its box. 

The presentation was unfortunately only in Japanese, but a majority of staff on hand were bilingual. One Apple store employee told me that roughly 30 percent of the customers during the morning had been foreigners, and it surprised me how many of the ‘display’ apps were English language only. There was even a ‘learning Japanese’ app to try, probably to appeal to the fairly significant audience of foreigners present.

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4 of 5 Hana Stewart-Smith/ZDNET

The fourth floor is always the host of ‘the family room’, one member of staff told me, and the Genius Bar. Of course, the Genius Bar is intended to help customers with problems and fixes for the iPad, so today it was virtually empty. It said a lot about how well organised and efficient the whole launch was that in Japan they were already prepared for problems on the first day.

As it was, most of the floor was filled up with contracts. Instead of cluttering up space on the sales floors, anyone looking to buy the 4G-enabled models was quickly scooted upstairs to sort out the paper work. Very neat.

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5 of 5 Hana Stewart-Smith/ZDNET

Despite queues building overnight, it barely took the Ginza store an hour to clear them. After that there was a bit of a lull in customers, and at first I wondered if the iPad launch was going to be a little underwhelming.

“It’s not as crazy as the iPhone 4S launch,” one Apple store employee told me, but that didn’t mean it was going to stay that way.

By the time I was leaving the lunch crowd were already starting to arrive, hoping to pick up a new iPad before heading back to the office. The staff were girding themselves for another rush at around 5 pm, when the salary men get off work. A working day launch might have made it seem quiet, but I could imagine a lot of people grabbing their new tablet on the way home as a reward for a heavy weeks work.

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