Today was iPhone day, and the witching hour was at 6pm local time (PDT here). I could have stayed at home and learned all about it, as my family did. Thanks to my VCR, I saw that our NBC affiliate covered the iPhone as the 2nd story of the 5pm news, a minute halfway through the 5:30 pm national news, and as the lead story — with live remotes from Apple stores in San Francisco, Palo Alto and Santa Clara — for the first five minutes of the 6pm news.
Instead of staying home, as a business historian, for my blog readers overseas and (to be frank) mainly out of curiosity, I went out to observe iPhone mania first hand. I visited 0.62% of the Apple stores and 0.17% of the Cingular AT&T stores in the U.S. — that is to say, all (1) of the Apple stores in Santa Clara and half (3) of the AT&T stores in San José.
When the doors opened, I was at the Apple Valley Fair store in Santa Clara (in a mall mainly in San José) had about 60 people who got nametags for waiting before the mall opened at 7:00 am and perhaps 150 people total — plus that many more just there (like me) to witness the spectacle. As I remarked to Doug Klein, no one got a picture of the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand (shot 93 years and one day ago) but there were 100s of photos of lines and the opening at just this one Apple store alone. The scene was repeated at Apple stores around the country. (There’s even a dedicated domain, iPhoneLaunch.tv, for video of the Soho rollout).
The NBC Nightly News showed the line snaking into the Apple flagship store in NYC. With all the bloggers, Palo Alto probably had the longest lines (and most bloggers) in the Bay Area and even had a live video feed. As the store closest to Steve Jobs’ Woodside home, the Palo Alto store also won a incognito visit by the Apple CEO.
Still, at Valley Fair we had the other Apple founder, Steve Wozniak, waiting in line for more than 13 hours. This was happening only 8 miles from Homestead High School, where Woz met Steve Jobs more than 30 years ago. And clearly the historic location caused him to wax nostalgic:
“This has been the main mall my whole life,” Wozniak said, explaining his choice of venue. “This is where I and Steve Jobs came when we were kids.”In a TV interview and other interviews, he likened it to waiting overnight to buy Rolling Stones tickets in 1972.
As befitting any Apple media event, there was a special t-shirt: three, actually. The Apple employees had a special minmalist black t-shirt, Woz (and a few others) had a t-shirt saying “the line starts here,” and add-on company FastMac was handing out its own t-shirt.
Wanting to have dinner at home, I decided not to become #151 in line at Valley Fair. I also drove by the three of the AT&T stores in San José between 6:30 and 7:00 pm, and I estimate that each had about 50 people in line. Even though the Bay Area is atypical, it’s realistic to extrapolate that there were at least 10,000 people waiting outside the 162 Apple stores and 30,000 waiting outside 1,800 AT&T stores. So they could have had as many as 50,000 people waiting in line Friday rather than ordering online or (as I’m going to do) stopping by on Saturday.Photos by Joel West: Valley Fair (#1-3), AT&T Stevens Creek Blvd. (#4)