By Philip Elmer-DeWitt
March 10, 2011

A temporary retail outlet to service the tech enthusiasts gathering in Austin for SXSW

Last year, 35,000 people descended on Austin, Texas, for South by Southwest, a music, film and interactive technology festival that has become one of the premier social — and drinking — events in the high-tech calendar.

As it happens, this year’s SXSW opens Friday — launch day for the iPad 2. Anticipating that its two Austin-based retail stores might have trouble handling the crush of semi-inebriated iPad enthusiasts, Apple (AAPL) has come up with an ingenious¬† solution.

According to the Austin American-Statesman, the company has rented a 5,000-sq.-ft. retail space in downtown Austin to create a temporary Apple store that will open on Friday, sell furiously for a week or two, and then leave town.

Pop-up stores — or, in the U.K., pop-up shops — are an idea pioneered by vendors of Halloween costumes, Christmas decorations, July 4th fireworks and ephemeral fashion brands. This is Apple’s first experiment with the form.

According to CNNMoney’s Stacey Cowley, Apple maintained its air of secrecy — and kept the store under wraps — until an hour before the iPad launch. By then, the line of waiting shoppers stretched for blocks, tipped off by an article in a local newspaper late Wednesday that revealed Apple’s plans.

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