Though the line ran more than a hundred people deep by the early, 9:00am opening of Apple’s flagship Orange County store in Costa Mesa, California, the crowd wasn’t there for today’s release of Apple’s Mac mini personal computer – two-thirds of those we spoke with said that they were waiting only for Apple’s new iPod shuffle. The cheapest iPod has been in exceedingly short supply since its January 11th launch, with reports that hundreds of units have sold out within hours from virtually every store that has stocked them.
Several minutes before the store opened, an Apple Store employee (the “sacrificial lamb”) delivered disappointing news to the gathered crowd: the store had only a small but unspecified number of shuffle units, and each customer would be limited to only one. The store would take the phone numbers of all remaining customers and give them priority on an impending shipment expected within the next day. No such limitation was placed on the purchase of Mac mini computers, which at $499 and up are expected to infuse significant new life into the Macintosh computer user base.
Customers began to line up at 5:00am to enter the Apple Store, but surprisingly, the first five people in line were not all there to purchase the Mac mini on its release date – several wanted shuffles only. Most of the crowd appeared an hour before the store opened, and after Apple announced the limitation on shuffle sales, many believed that they would not be able to walk away with units today, but remained in line regardless. Demand was split evenly between those wanting 512MB ($99) models and those wanting 1GB ($149) shuffles. However, one student and dedicated Mac fan near the front of the line described the Mac mini as “cute,” and expressed interest in the new machine.
No Apple discounts or promotional offers were available at the launch event. But the South Coast Plaza shopping mall offered free gift bags to the first 50 people in line, containing luggage tags and fabric arm bags branded with the mall’s logo.