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Heavy rains — and a lively grey market — may have dampened the turnout in Beijing



Photo: M.I.C Gadget via Flickr

There were plenty of reporters but only about 100 customers queued up outside Apple’s (AAPL) Beijing retail outlet at 8 a.m. Friday when sales of the iPad officially began in China.

The first customer, Han Ziwen, wearing a blue “I BUY IPAD NO 1” T-shirt, was mobbed by the press as he emerged with a box in each hand. He had been camped out in front of the store for more than two days.

Apple seemed to have plenty of Wi-Fi-only iPads in stock. The company has not yet announced when it will begin selling 3G+Wi-Fi model in China. Both models, however, are available in Beijing’s busy grey market — along with plenty of dodgy knockoffs.



PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images

Apple’s prices for Wi-Fi-only iPads range from $586 for the 16 GB model to $822 for 64 GB. Grey market 64 GB 3G+Wi-Fi models can be had for about $1,000.

The customers who turned out Friday seemed to put a premium on buying the real thing directly from the manufacturer.

“With this I have peace of mind,” one customer told the
Wall Street Journal
in the video posted below the fold. “If you have a problem you can come back here and get it fixed.”

Below: The Journal‘s video. (Also available here.) UPDATE: And a Reuters video report via YouTube.

Wall Street Journal:

[vodpod id=Video.4460701&w=425&h=350&fv=videoGUID%3D%7BEAC52611-B50F-4CBA-83D0-B3E8163822E7%7D%26amp%3Bplayerid%3D1000%26amp%3BplyMediaEnabled%3D1%26amp%3BconfigURL%3Dhttp%3A%2F%2Fwsj.vo.llnwd.net%2Fo28%2Fplayers%2F%26amp%3BautoStart%3Dfalse]

Reuters:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UL91MJVHQ8I]

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[Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter @philiped]