Apple online store swamped as iPad customers queue up

Assuming anyone can place an order, Apple promises delivery by March 16

Apple's online store remained unavailable or unresponsive more than two hours after the company introduced its new iPad tablet.

Checks by Computerworld through 4:15 p.m. ET from multiple locations in the U.S. found the Apple e-store either still sporting a "We'll be back soon" banner, or if it did load in a browser, becoming unresponsive during the purchase process.

One Computerworld staffer who was able to reach an Apple online sales representative was told that the e-market was down because the company was "still updating the store."

The representative also said that all orders had to go through the online store.

Earlier today, Apple executives, including CEO Tim Cook, introduced "the new iPad" -- the apparent official name of the tablet -- and said that pre-orders would begin today.

The company's retail stores will start selling the new model on Friday, March 16. If Apple hews to past practice, the first iPads ordered online will arrive at customers' doors on or slightly before that date.

Apple will sell the new iPad for the same prices as last year's iPad 2: The Wi-Fi configuration will start at $499 for a model with 16GB of storage space, while tablets equipped to connect to 3G or LTE data networks will begin at $629.

When Computerworld was able to reach the Apple e-store, the site said "Limited quantities are available" but promised delivery by March 16.

Later in the process -- and before an order could be placed -- the mart stalled.

Apple is limiting online orders to two iPads per customer.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer , on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com .

See more by Gregg Keizer on Computerworld.com .

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Gregg Keizer

Computerworld (US)
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