With Apple employees clapping wildly and leading a cheer of "iPad! iPad!" dozens of people who had waited in line overnight in downtown Palo Alto rushed into the University Avenue store at 9 a.m. today to buy the Cupertino company's newest product, the tablet computer known as the iPad.
Eager customers have already begun to assemble outside Apple's Palo Alto store on 451 University Ave. in anticipation of its release of the iPad Saturday at 9 a.m.
When the doors open, those who outlast the expected overnight drizzle will be among the first to exchange $499 for the 1.5 pound LED touchscreen tablet, which comes equipped with many of the functionalities of a laptop or desktop computer.
Tech blogger Robert Scoble of Half Moon Bay, who as of 3:30 p.m. Friday was at the front of the line, ahead of nine others, posted a series of brief updates of the scene on his Twitter page, @scobleizer, which has about 119,000 followers.
His "tweets," supplemented by linked videos, narrate visits from developers shilling iPad applications and detail plans for a late night party outside the Palo Alto store.
"@LarryChiang is bringing his BBQ for a 1 a.m. BBQ dinner," Scoble wrote. "You're welcome to join us. Bring rain gear."
A video shot by Scoble revealed that a small contingent of customers, holding umbrellas and bundled in heavy jackets, had stationed lawn chairs and tent materials around the corner from the store's entrance. Scoble said he brought a 3,600-watt generator to the event.
He expects a larger crowd to gather as the evening progresses. "There's a lot of cool geeks coming," he added on video.
The iPad, first publicized by Apple in January, features wireless Internet, e-mail, video, map viewing and photo browsing capabilities. It also doubles as a larger version of Apple's iPod mp3 player and as an iBook, Apple's take on the latest wave of portable electronic reading devices to enter the market.
Users can connect the device to Apple's online App Store, which contains an array of additional applications -- ranging from games to global positioning systems -- currently available for purchase.
With temperatures dropping, the line that curled around the corner onto Kipling Street had grown to 20 people as of 7:30 p.m. Most in line wore thick parkas. Some had already erected tents. Many passersby stopped to take pictures or chat with those closest to the store entrance.
Tech blogger Scoble arrived at the store at 11 a.m., he said.
"I make my living off of the tech industry, and I like to celebrate the tech industry … The party is worth waiting for," he said.
This would not be his first overnight wait, he said.
"I waited in line for the iPhone and the Xbox, and I'll be waiting in line for 'Halo' when it comes out later this year," he said.
On his Twitter feed, Scoble enthused over the people who stopped by, such as Apple's first software developer, Bill Atkinson.
"He is showing us his new app Photocard. Awesome!" Scoble tweeted.
Software developer Stanislav Miasnikov sat one spot behind Scoble. The two were sharing a large, waterproof canopy after having been introduced by a mutual friend several hours beforehand, Miasnikov sasid.
Miasnikov wanted to be the first to install the handwriting recognition software he developed, WritePad, on the new tablet, he said.
"We had over two million downloads on the iPhone, but the screen size is not as useful," he said.
Paly student Daniel Brusilovsky waited next to his friend Spencer Schoeben, a student at Aragon High School in San Mateo. They arrived at 3 p.m., Brusilovsky said, and held the ninth and 10th positions in line.
The overnight stay is "all about the experience, waiting in line and meeting people," Brusilovsky said. He and Schoeben already knew some of the people waiting and then met the rest, he said.
They looked forward to using the device as well, they said.
"When I'm sitting in front of the TV, I usually have my laptop, but I don't need all of this," Brusilovsky said, gesturing at the Apple laptop nestled securely in his lap. "I just need Web browsing and word processing, and the iPad does that."
"I just can't imagine not having it," Schoeben said.
The pair would not be deterred by rain, Brusilovsky said.
"We have umbrellas; we have a tent if we need it," he said.
Those further back in line planned other ways of staying dry outside -– or not.
"If it rains I have an umbrella, but I might also go home. I live two blocks away. I'm not insane!" said Palo Alto resident Dave Klein, who held the 15th spot.
"I'll throw on my hood. I'm hardcore like that!" San Francisco resident Dave Flores said. At 7:30 p.m., Flores held the 20th -- and last -– spot in line.
The iPad party attracted both traditional and new media outlets. A live video stream was being broadcast throughout the night via Ustream.