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Apple Inc launched its new iPad tablet in the Chinese mainland market on Friday, this time without the overnight lines seen during the release of the iPhone 4S and the iPad 2.
The release comes shortly after the company paid $60 million to a Chinese company to settle a trademark dispute over the iPad name.
Last year, when the company launched its iPad 2 in China, hundreds of people stayed up all night queuing for the new device. Authorities sent police and police dogs to keep public order outside the Apple stores.
However, this year, only about 30 customers were waiting for the store in Sanlitun to open on Friday morning. Apple store employees outnumbered buyers. Most of the waiting customers were Apple fans, and scalpers - the professional profiteers - were hard to find this time.
A customer surnamed Ye was the first in line to buy a 32-gigabyte iPad. He said that he already owns an iPhone 4, an iPad 2 and other Apple products.
"I reserved an iPad at Apple's online store on Thursday morning, and then received an email to pick up the tablet on Friday morning, a few hours later," Ye said.
He arrived at the store at around 7 am, and was surprised to find out that he was the first in line. Last year, the first customer who bought an iPad2 started queuing at 3 am.
Apple's new retail policies in China and the economic slowdown were the main reasons for the lackluster attendance, industry experts said.
In order to curb scalpers and the gray-market trade, the new product was only available through Apple's online store, selected authorized resellers and by reservation from Apple's retail stores in China.
"Tablets have been in the Chinese market for about two years, and customers now are more jaded about the new products," said Wang Jiping, a senior analyst at US-based IT research company IDC Asia-Pacific.