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iPad Air not very hot: Apple fanbois SHUN London fondleslab launch

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Peak Apple Apple's new iPad Air has fallen to earth with a thud following a dismal launch day in London.

The new fondleslab went on sale today and was met with unimpressive crowds which had entirely dissipated by the early morning. Normally, huge throngs of fanbois descend on Apple stores at the merest hint of a new product launch, but today the hordes were nowhere to be seen.

Some observers put the number of fanbois outside the flagship stores in Covent Garden and Regent Street at just under 100 as Apple prepared to open its doors at 9am.

A few hardcore Apple fans braved the elements last night to wait for the release of the fruity firm's new fondleslab, which is pretty much the same as the old one bar a few cosmetic changes and some minor weight loss.

We visited the Covent Garden store at about half-past nine in the morning, to see a rather disconsolate little group of iAcolytes waiting outside the store. The barriers had already been removed. Over the course of about 20 minutes, three or four new iPad owners emerged.

John McGhee, a well turned out 51-year-old lawyer from Putney, London, said:

"I always try to turn out on launch day to buy a new Apple product, although I never queue. I'm always happy to wait a few days to buy an iPad or iPhone if it's sold out.

"Today, queueing didn't seem necessary, as Apple appear to have a lot of stock."

Mr McGhee did not agree with the thesis that Apple is facing its end of days.

"The tech seems to be maturing," he added. "I remember old laptops, which used to break every year, so you needed to buy a new one. That's not the case anymore and Apple also face competition from Google or Samsung. Apple are still on top of the game, but you cannot expect them to do something different each time."

The Reg had a fondle of the new Air slab at the Covent Garden store and (plug your ears, fanbois) we weren't that impressed. This new gizmo seems more a matter of a cynical Apple cashing in on the innovation of the glorious days when Steve Jobs was able to justify his use of words like "magical".

Yeah, it's thinner. And agreed, it's a little bit lighter and a smidgen faster. But that's your lot. It's said that Salvador Dali used to sign any old canvas in his later days, just to rake in a bit of dosh. This, with the use of the "Air" badge, is the tech equivalent.

In the Covent Garden store, shelves were stacked high and Apple store workers admitted they do not expect the iPad Air to sell out. Nor do they expect to flog every single iPad Mini, which now comes with a hi-res retina screen.

An Apple store worker said:

"We weren't expecting much today, to be honest. When it comes to the iPhone, there were queues outside which started days before the launch. This time, there were just about 100 people waiting outside.

"It's a great new iPad, but it's not really that different from the ones which have gone before."

Here's a picture of the fanbois at the top of the queue early this morning, which was posted on Twitter by a passerby:

The critical reception for Apple's latest tablet has been mixed, with some writers gushing about the super light Air and others asking why the fruity firm can't be bothered doing anything new anymore. In USA Today, one tech critic wrote:

"The Earth isn't about to shake with the arrival of Apple's thin new iPad Air that goes on sale Friday. iPad Air breaks no major ground."

The Air is 20 per cent thinner than the previous model and starts at £399. The iPad Mini Retina has a 7.9-inch screen, as compared to the larger 9.7-inch model.

Supply of the Mini is expected to be tight, because of the cost of the latest retina screen. According to analysis firm IHS, demand for the Mini will reach 9 million, but Apple shipments might only reach between three and four million.

"Apple is being rather vague about the exact availability date of the new iPad mini with Retina Display, simply stating the product would ship later in November," said Rhoda Alexander, director of tablet research at IHS.

"The company has good reason to be coy about the exact release date, given that supply of the new mini is going to be ridiculously tight in the fourth quarter." ®

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