Apple Appears To Listen To The Social Web, Arrives At SXSW & People Flock

Robert Scoble Becomes First To Own The iPhone - Mercury NewsI’m almost set to head out to my third year at the South by Southwest conference and one of the things I had to write about was Apple’s somewhat “surprising” announcement that they were setting up an ad hoc store near the heart of the SXSW event that I was going to. When I say “surprising”, I mean, I’m surprised that Apple is taking such initiative and I rather applaud them for that. Why are they doing this? Well quite simply it’s because tomorrow morning, the iPad 2 is set to be released and most of the technology enthusiasts who love to be early adopters will most likely not be anywhere near the Apple store, but rather deep in Austin, Texas for this 4-5 day festival.

The announcement came from the local paper, the Austin American-Stateman and the store is set to open for only two weeks – the duration of the SXSW conference. It’s pretty cool that the software/hardware giant is taking these steps to accommodate the passionate tech community because right when CEO Steve Jobs announced the date of the release, it occurred to me and possibly thousands of others watching that this date fell on an awkward time for many – that being the conference. But this also proved to be a blessing in disguise. Whether on purpose or by accident, March 11 will prove to be a perfect storm for Apple and Jobs.

What’s the big deal?

Well for one, releasing the iPad 2 at SXSW is a great way to help the product get extra promotion – not like it needed it, Sure, there are plenty of people from the media that were at the keynote and heard everything about the iPad 2 and even got some hands-on time with it, BUT what you have at SXSW is a collection (nearly 24,000 strong) people interested in all things web-related and are in one way, shape or form attached to some social network to help spread the word about the iPad 2. There’s a huge potential of a chain reaction of positive (or negative) response to the iPad 2 and maybe Apple has paid attention to the arguments online about why they aren’t helping out the “geeks” at SXSW get their iPad 2.

Now Apple opening up a temporary shop in Austin doesn’t mean that a store doesn’t exist there. Quite the opposite, there are at least two Apple stores nearby, but they require some mode of transportation and while we’re all excited about the release, our primary stop was the conference and its parties. We don’t all have available transportation and there aren’t enough taxi cabs in the city to caravan down the I-35 highway to get to the store. So to make it even easier for people to pick one up, Apple’s idea to open up a temporary store was a good one – easy on the customer will increase the chances of them picking it up. And for people who have been dying to get the latest iPad or just need one for the conference (rather than lugging around their laptop), this might be the perfect chance to grab one up.

The iPad 2 could be the de facto ruler of all gadgets this year

Each year, there’s a lot of speculation about what the latest and greatest gadget or piece of technology will emerge that everyone will pounce on and claim for themselves. Several years ago it was Twitter and the following year it was Foursquare. Now this year, it could be all about the continued “year of the tablet”. There was some murmur about the group texting service through TextPlus, GroupMe, Beluga, etc becoming the talk of the town, but with the iPad 2’s name being tossed into the ring, it could only be a formality before this tablet takes over SXSW by storm. In fact, if you look on Saturday morning at the conference, chances are people will be huddled around one individual who has the iPad 2 (or just view on Twitter for the SXSW hashtag and the iPad 2 – someone will have a photo of the first person at SXSW to buy the iPad 2). Just take a look at the tablet – with wi-fi and potentially 3G setup, it could be the one to replace cell phones and allow people to use the group texting services right on the device along with a slew of others. It will replace the phone and the laptop at SXSW in one fell swoop.

I think the article on the Apple store news pretty much sums up the thoughts most everyone has:

There’s no question many of the people attending the event for work or play (there’s tons of bands, film premiers and other pop culture delights) will be of the iPad-purchasing persuasion.

And again, why is this a bad thing? At least Apple has recognized that a lot of influential people, “fanboys”, gadget enthusiasts, media, business people, marketers and many many more will be at this event and it’s not one for them to ignore.

Will you be at SXSW this year and if so, will you be standing in line for this? What’s your motivation to get one while you’re at the conference instead of waiting?

Photo Credit: Mercury News

By Ken Yeung

Ken Yeung is a journalist fascinated with the stories of the tech industry and internet culture. He's currently the Technology Editor at Flipboard, where he observes what's happening in the space while also identifying new topics of interest. In addition, he co-hosts the weekly internet show "The Created Economy," which focuses on what's happening to creators and influencers. Previously, he was a reporter for VentureBeat and The Next Web, covering tech startups, the industry's innovations and funding. Ken also has a newsletter you should also subscribe to called "Filed."