A lone Charleston police officer stood beside his parked cruiser Friday afternoon in front of the Apple store on King Street -- just in case.
City officials remembered the store's opening in July 2008 and figured they'd better have someone on hand, the officer said. Today, Apple's highly anticipated iPad, the thin and lightweight touch-screen device, hits stores.
Laptop computer meets iPod meets Kindle, this gadget gives users a 10-inch screen for reading books, viewing photos, playing videos and surfing the Web -- but not taking photos or talking on the phone. It weighs a pound- and-a-half and starts at $499.
Customers can purchase the iPad at Apple retail stores and Best Buy stores that carry Apple products or from the Apple Web site. Employees at the King Street store declined to discuss their expectations for today, except that they plan to open an hour early at 9 a.m.
The store hung only a small sign advertising the product but no other preview.
By Friday afternoon, Best Buy in West Ashley still had not received its shipment of the product for the morning launch. Store manager Calvin Smith said employees there would put together a display with four iPads overnight so customers who arrive for the 10 a.m. store opening can try out the product. He didn't know what kind of crowd to expect.
"Apple has that magic," Smith said. "They can inspire people to come out and look at things. ... We're expecting it to be pretty exciting."
The buzz around the device is tremendous, among consumers as well as businesses.
Newspapers, magazines and other content producers, as well as advertisers, see a possible path to digital interactive revenue from the device and its applications.
The iPad introduction also brings opportunities for upstart businesses that target Apple customers.
Digital Lifestyle Outfitters, a Charleston company acquired by Netherlands-based electronics giant Philips in 2007, sells accessories for iPods and iPhones. Spokeswoman Ilissa Woods said the company created two cases for the iPad, one black and one reversible red/black.
Tommy Dew, cofounder of Charleston City Slicker, which began as a self-guided walking tour for the iPhone with a brick-and-mortar storefront on Church Street, said his company developed a software upgrade in conjunction with iPad's introduction. He plans to number among the first people in line today at the Apple store.
"We have not been able to hold one in our hands," Dew said. "We have been working with a simulator."
He said the ability to deliver content based on proximity sets Apple's technology apart. With his application, for example, a tourist standing outside the Powder Magazine could view the attraction's chapter from Dew's walking tour or simply look at the hours and prices.
"To have a device that knows who you are and where you are at all times and to have media to interact with you based on that is the next generation," Dew said. "This is going to change the way we live."
Reach Allyson Bird at 937-5594 or firstname.lastname@example.org.