A Tale Of Two Coasts: From SoHo To Santa Clara, Panther Drew The Crowds (W/Pics)

Appleis product roll out events are old-hat now. Apple announces a new product, schedules a big promotion in each of its Apple Stores, and then has the kinds of crowds that other retailers only dream about lining up outside the store before the event even opens.

Such was the case this past weekend with the launch of Mac OS X 10.3, Panther. From Orlando, FL to Appleis Manhattan store in SoHo, to the Valley Fair store in San Clara, Mac users poured out for Panther.

In SoHo, it was a chilly New York City October night, in the mid-50s and clear. That didnit stop folks from coming out for Panther, however, and there was a huge line by 7:30 PM, 30 minutes before the store reopened for the Panther event. For non New Yorkers, this will be hard to explain, but the line went along the store front on Prince, around the corner on Greene, and all the way back to Houston and out of sight. TMOis estimate is that there were from 800-1,000 people in line before the doors opened.

On the other coast, just a few miles from Appleis Cupertino headquarters, the Santa Clara Valley Fair Panther event had something closer to 400 people waiting in line, but that line kept replenishing. Even an hour and a half after the Panther event kicked off in this San Jose suburb, there were 104 people still in line waiting to get in to see Panther.

That begs the question that many passers-by were asking: Who on Earth waits in line to buy an operating system? The answer prohibits generalization because both crowds were as diverse in age, ethnicity, gender, lifestyle, fashion, and geek level as the Bay Area and New York City can get.

Inside the SoHo store, it was busy and full, but not uncomfortably crowded at all. Apple managed to keep the crowd levels just right. The theater upstairs was standing room only as people watched a demo of all Pantheris features. Every few minutes youid hear cheers and applause from the theater as some long-requested feature was revealed. The extra-long SoHo Genius bar was converted into a second bank of registers for purchases. Everyone seemed to be carrying a copy of Panther and many more were filling their arms with 10% discounted goodies.

In San Jose, the Genius Bar was remained a Genius Bar, which was crowded the whole night. People lined up 6 deep at the cash registers, most with a copy of Panther. Apple employees constantly made the rounds replenishing the stock of black Panther boxes. As with the other Apple Stores, the company was offering 10% other products if you bought a copy of Panther that night. Hardware was also eligible for a 10% discount by itself. Throughout the evening, we saw many new Macs, iPods, and of course Panther, walking out the door.

Though Apple has given or sold T-shirts at past events, the Panther event did not include that kind of softwear. The company did have Mac OS X Panther dog-tags, however, and everyone who came got a pair.

Apple Store employees were everywhere with tags on their ID badges stating things like, "Ask me about Mail," "Ask me about the Finder," or "Ask me about iChat." For those wondering, we didnit see anyone with an "Ask me about Terminal" t-shirt.

The crowds at the Jaguar event were larger, but Apple clearly had another successful event on its hands. TMO had reporters at the Hartford, CT, Orlando, FL, SoHo, NY, and Santa Clara, CA stores, and in each case, the lines were long, and the cash registers were busy.

It remains to be seen if Panther will be as big a seller as Jaguar, in part because Jaguar fills the needs of most of its users, and in part because Jaguar was released only a year ago, but Friday nightis Panther event was a resounding success.

Click the thumbnails for larger images

Outside, the line
stretches back

The SoHo glass stairs

Working the iSight

Lots of people

Panther Display

Apple shirts


Very crowded

iPod posters