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Sorry, clout don't count

TECHNOLOGY

Even celebs and techies have to wait for the official iPhone release.

June 29, 2007|Michelle Quinn and Alana Semuels | Times Staff Writers

SAN FRANCISCO — When it comes to landing an iPhone, Apple Inc.'s other famous Steve plans to stand in line.

Steve Wozniak helped Steve Jobs launch Apple more than 30 years ago, sparking a computing revolution. But the man known to many as Woz, who left the company in 1987, planned to queue up outside a San Jose Apple store at 4 a.m. today in hopes of getting his hands on one.

"I love to see the future early," he said.

Apple is controlling the iPhone's exposure as if it were a movie star before a blockbuster's opening day. The Cupertino, Calif., company doled out a small number to a carefully chosen group of reviewers -- most of whom have raved about it. Silicon Valley legends, Wall Street analysts, Hollywood insiders and others used to getting the latest hot gadget before the masses have been forced to scramble for one.

"Lots of people have requested iPhones," an Apple spokeswoman said. "No one is getting any special treatment."

Rumors have spread across the Internet that Jobs presented Madonna with an iPhone. Her publicist, Liz Rosenberg, said Thursday that the pop star was in London and couldn't be reached for confirmation.

But Cher, another celebrity client of Rosenberg, "is longing to buy one."

"I haven't been successful in getting one for her," the publicist said, adding that she might have to stand in line for Cher or find a fan to do so. "Doesn't winning Oscars, Grammys and Emmys entitle her to move to the front of the line?"

Lines are virtually guaranteed. Apple plans to close its 164 U.S. stores at 2 p.m. today to ready them, then open the doors to iPhone buyers at 6. The company said Thursday that customers would be allowed to purchase up to two iPhones. The celebrated smart phone will also be sold through Apple's website and stores owned by its wireless partner, AT&T Inc.

Wozniak doesn't have to join the masses in front of the mall. He says Jobs recently called and said Apple would send him an iPhone, to arrive Saturday. But his desire to have one immediately -- plus some for his three children -- prompted his plan to stand in an hours-long line for the first time since 1972, when he coveted Rolling Stones concert tickets.

He and friends will hand out T-shirts that read, "The Line Begins Here," and he'll have his Segway Human Transporter for bathroom runs.

"This is more a celebration," he said.

Other locations may seem more like a circus. At lunchtime Thursday, Robert Scoble and his son Patrick, 13, threw down futon cushions outside an Apple store in Palo Alto to camp out for the night. An influential technology blogger who for years was employed by Apple rival Microsoft Corp., Scoble immediately started writing online dispatches in line.

"Normal, nontech people are crazy about this device," Scoble said. Some want the iPhone so badly they are giving up their vacations and jeopardizing their health. David Clayman, a 21-year-old tourist from Chicago, was second in line outside New York's flagship Apple store on Fifth Avenue. He said he planned to buy one phone for charity and give the other to his father as a birthday present, if he makes it.

It rained hard Wednesday night. Then the temperature rose to 90 degrees Thursday. The noise of traffic made it hard to sleep despite the earplugs Clayman wore. By Thursday afternoon he was feeling sick, so he stepped inside the Apple store for air-conditioned relief, leaving a friend to occupy his folding chair.

He wasn't sorry that he cut short his tour of New York to queue up. Manhattan walks by him. "You can see everything right here," he said.

Even for carpetbaggers like Josh May, 18, and his twin brother, Jonathan, the iPhone hype -- and their exhaustion -- were having a hypnotic effect.

Planning to buy iPhones and sell them to the highest bidder on Craigslist, the brothers were first in line Wednesday at the Apple store in Walnut Creek, 30 miles east of San Francisco. They made T-shirts that read, "iWait." They used a plug built for Christmas tree lights to recharge their laptops and passed the time smoking, watching movies and talking to people responding to their Web bulletin board ad.

But Jonathan's resolve began to waver. "I'm scared I'm going to buy it and fall in love with it," he said.

In Hollywood, where stars are accustomed to getting easy access to the newest products but demand that they function perfectly, some celebrities are waiting a few months while Apple fixes any glitches.

"There's kind of a buzz, but most who are into it are tech-savvy enough to know that they wait for the second generation," said Howard Bragman, whose public-relations firm represents TV personalities Ricki Lake, Isaiah Washington and Leeza Gibbons.

But Wozniak is eager to own one from the first batch.

The man who helped invent Apple's easy-to-use computers generally doesn't like phones that perform too many functions because, he says, they aren't "human enough for me." Based on the reviews, some aspects of the iPhone concern him, such as the reportedly slow Web-browsing allowed by AT&T's Edge wireless network.

"It doesn't make sense for Apple not to do it right," he says.

Still, Wozniak is looking forward to standing in line with the Apple faithful. He plans to spend some time with the device, then decide whether Apple's ballyhooed product is the do-it-all phone that's human enough.

--

michelle.quinn@latimes.com

alana.semuels@latimes.com

Quinn reported from San Francisco, Semuels from Los Angeles. Times staff writer Thomas S. Mulligan in New York contributed to this report.

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