Apple, which has nearly 300 retail stores across the U.S., said that new iPad customers who buy the tablet at an Apple Store will be offered its free Personal Setup service. This service gets the ball rolling with the new device, and Apple's on-site staff will help customers set up basic things such as email, apps, etc., so that the device is fully operational when the customer leaves the store. Apple offered a similar service to iPhone 4S buyers last fall when it launched.
The iPad will also be available at AT&T and Verizon Wireless retail locations. Both AT&T and Verizon Wireless said they will be selling all models of the new iPad (including Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi+4G), though they didn't say if their stores would be opening early for iPad buyers.
[ iPad sales have already outpaced analyst expectations. Will tablets soon outsell PCs, as Apple CEO Tim Cook predicts? Read more at Apple iPad Sales Show Rivals No Threat. ]
The new iPad will also be available at Best Buy, Radio Shack, Sam's Club, Target, and Walmart. None of these stores has yet announced whether or not they will open early for the iPad launch.
In addition to the U.S., the iPad is launching in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Switzerland, and the U.K., along with Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. It will be available starting at 8 a.m. local time at Apple Stores in these countries.
With its Retina Display, 5-megapixel camera with 1080p HD video capture, A5X system-on-a-chip, voice dictations, and LTE 4G, the new iPad has plenty of appeal. Apple began accepting preorders for the device on Wednesday, March 7, for March 16 delivery. Shipping times for the new iPad, however, quickly slipped to March 19 and then to "two to three weeks." Apple sold through the initial stock of iPads available for launch day. The big question is, how much stock will it have in stores for Friday's launch?
The new iPad starts at $499 for the 16GB Wi-Fi version. Prices for the 32GB and 64GB Wi-Fi versions jump to $599 and $699, respectively. The new iPad starts at $629 for the 16GB Wi-Fi+4G version, followed by $729 and $829 for the 32GB and 64GB Wi-Fi+4G versions, respectively.
Neither AT&T nor Verizon Wireless is offering the 4G models at a subsidized price. That's good news, because it means consumers won't be forced to sign contracts in order to buy one. Data plans are being offered on a month-to-month basis. AT&T's lowest cost plan is $15 per month for 250MB. Verizon Wireless is charging a bit more, with 2GB monthly plans being offered at $30. Both carriers offer larger buckets of data for broadband-hungry mobile users.
Windows is currently a nobody in the tablet market. That could change with the release of Windows 8, the first version designed for touch screens and the tablet form factor. With the new Metro user interface, Microsoft will try to serve both tablet and desktop markets. Can it succeed? Find out at our Byte webcast, What Impact Will Windows 8 Have On The Tablet Market?. It happens March 14. (Free registration required.)