I tend to walk the line and this time was no different. I chose to venture out into the cold in order to get my Surface RT device instead of pre-ordering it and waiting in the comfy confines of home while it trucked it's way to my front porch. I believe I chose wisely.
I've never lined up for a device, never experienced the camaraderie of the line, nor the elements that effect the line. I wanted that experience because if you think about it, when will the next Microsoft "line up" worthy device roll out? Nobody short of a few press folks were able to even touch the Surface RT tablet. It was a mystery. Surface Pro maybe? Perhaps, but we have already experienced Microsoft's tablet hardware. Maybe the next XBox but i hope you see my logic at work. This was an event worthy of some time off to experience the line and I'm not sure when that will ever happen again.
I chose Oakbrook Illinois as my location. It's a full blown Microsoft store compared to the "pop-up" store I had been stalking in Indianapolis, IN. I called the store a few days ahead of launch day to ask about hours but little did I know my questions to the store employee were somewhat confusing. You see, I didn't know this location was an outside mall. I'm asking this guy when does the store open compared to when the mall opens and where is the best spot outside the mall to line up. The confusing answers in return led me to recon the location the evening prior. That's when i discovered it was an outside mall. I questioned the employees once again and found out that the earliest you could get on mall property was 5 A.M.
Before and after shots of the store.
I scoped out a place to park on my way out and left the mall trying to decide on when to return. I did a number of Twitter searches trying to gauge the crowd level that would be lining up. I settled on the following keywords: "Oakbrook" & "Surface." I found 18 tweets so there was not a lot of chatter about when to meet, line up, etc. At this point I am betting that I don't need to be in line at 5 A.M. The first 100 people in line get a 12 month pass to XBox Music which is a $99.90 value. I wanted the Surface but I also wanted that pass!
I chose 7 AM. I will be at the store at 7 and risk it. The Twitter search led me to believe that I would not be number 101. In fact I was number, 18.
It was cold but there were heaters. Some brought chairs, most just stood. Thankfully there were a few old salts and a couple of young "geek like me" folks waiting for their turn to purchase a Surface. We were from all over. Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin. We talked shop, shared a box of Starbucks coffee, and stared into the Microsoft store while the employees prepared for us.
A Microsoft representative, I won't say store employee because it seems that Microsoft hired a few extra folks to hang around and help, appeared out of a magic wall and put a wristband around me.
This was my guarantee that I was getting the XBox Music Pass. Other employees and representatives took photos, and handed out small snacks.
It was a blast to wait in line with a group of tech nerds and discuss first computers, and Microsoft hits and misses, but it was around 9:00 A.M. when it really got interesting. A young lady waltzed out of the store with a Surface RT in hand sporting a red touch keyboard.
Surface walks out the door and I finally get my hands on one!
This was the first time I had been this close to it and was able to play with it. A group of us gathered around it and starting hacking away at this new but foreign keyboard. It was then that I really started to get excited. I wanted to hop around the mall like a big ball of Ballmer all the while chanting, Surface, Surface, Surface!
The time had come. Microsoft employees poured out chanting and hollering while the line pushed up to the door. The Microsoft folks counted off the first several people and herded them into the store. Each person entering was able to sit with an employee and try out the Surface and ask questions. It was finally my turn to roll into the store and I walked in with the biggest grin on my face. I kinda hopped in actually. Employees were still clapping and hollering so I fist pumped my way to an employee that was waving me over. It was really cool to be able to finally play with the device and test each keyboard. It was also the time to decide. 32 or 64 and what type and color keyboard to get.
Microsoft offered an unboxing service which says, "Answer Desk Out of Box Experience" on my receipt. I'm sure it was to open it, and run through the setup process, but I wanted to enjoy this experience away from the store.
I finally left the store to find an even larger line outside. I'm not real sure how many were in line at this location but I would say it was between 100 to 125. It could have been more, could have been less. Regardless, I made a dash for the parking lot, after handing out SurfaceGeeks.net cards to all in line though.
Paying for my Surface
My touch cover
This was the one that I test drove.
I never did check on Microsoft's Facebook page to see if any shots from Oakbrook showed up. That's what this card was for. All in all, it was fun to be excited about a new Microsoft product. Microsoft needed this. Microsoft fans needed this. I just hope I'm wrong about the whole "line" thing. I hope there are many more to come.