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2 Playing the Waiting Game
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4 The county not on a map
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18 Harry Potter in Beijing
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21 Strolling on the Moon
22 Tea with the Brothers
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25 Christmas in Haerbin
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36 Brand Ambassadors
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39 Spinning the Wheel
40 Winter Wonderland
41 The End of the Sky
42 Ticket to Ride High
43 Turning the Corner
44 Trouble in Toytown
45 Watch with Mother
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47 In a Barbie World
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49 Tale of Two Taxis
50 Land of Extremes
51 Of 'Mice' and Men
52 Tour of the South
53 Brooding Clouds?
54 The Nabang Test
55 Guanxi Building
56 Apple Blossoms
57 New Romantics
58 The Rose Seller
59 Rural Shanghai
60 Forbidden Fruit
61 Exotic Flavours
62 Picking up Pace
63 New Year, 2008
64 Shedding Tiers
65 Olympic Prince
66 London Calling
67 A Soulful Song
68 Paradise Lost?
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70 Red, red wine
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78 Yes We Can!
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Apple Blossoms

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It rained heavily all day today in Beijing. The first cold front of the autumn had also blown in air that was 14 degrees centigrade cooler than the highs of recent days. But the inclement weather mattered not a jot to the crowds who flocked to the Apple store in Sanlitun Village.  Hundreds had waited in the pouring rain for the 8am opening  that signalled the long-awaited launch of iPad in China (Apple's other shops in China would open at 10am). 

  The first in the queue was Han Ziwen, a bookshop owner, who had  according to a shop assistant I spoke with  been queuing since Tuesday.  Photos of him, proudly wearing his "I BUY IPAD NO1" shirt, and holding aloft his brace of iPads (the most that one person is allowed to purchase at any one time) are already all over the Internet.

  It seemed that like the beaming Mr Han everyone leaving the shop with an iPad was struggling to contain their excitement.  "Which one did you buy?" I asked a man in his mid 30s, who was doing his best, but failing badly to contain a cat that got the cream look.  "64!" He said with a grin that was as wide as a well-fed Cheshire cat's.  The 64GB is the top of the range model that is selling for 5,588 yuan (about US$825).  "How does it feel to have one?" I asked.  Words, it seemed, were not enough to express his excitement.  Instead, he punched the air jubilantly.

  With that, I went inside and waited for one of the many demos to become available. After 15 minutes, my turn came. My first port of call was the ebook application. There were two pre-loaded books to choose from. I chose Winnie the Pooh  a favourite of mine.  I had never flicked through an ebook before (as in turning the pages with one's fingers), and at once I realised that the pundits who are forecasting a serious decline in the sales of physical books are likely to be proved right. Suddenly, Tigger – whom you may remember is "bouncy, trouncy, flouncy, pouncy", and "Fun, fun, fun, FUN" – pounced off the page and appeared in front of me.  

  "Hi! Can I help!?" pleaded an eager-faced Chong, an Apple 'helper' (I can't bring myself to call him a salesperson, because it never felt like he was trying to sell me anything). I thought for a moment before asking him to show me how to use the Wi-Fi. In two shakes of a Tigger's tail, I was connected to my requested site. He then told me all about the nifty device that for 80 yuan a month would keep me connected to the internet anywhere in China (rendering redundant any concerns about the China iPads lack of 3G compatibility). I was struck by Chong's incredible energy and unadulterated love of what he was doing.

  He then spotted I had a camera with me. "Hey!" he said, "The iPad is great for photographers!  He then explained how the card reader that's compatible with the iPad ("you can buy one upstairs") could enable me to travel light on my journeys around China. I thanked him for the advice, and he bounced away with a cheery, "Shout me over if you need any more help!".   

  No sooner had I got back to the iPad, Chong bounded back to my side. "Hey!" he said, "I've just thought of something you'll really like!" He then picked up the iPad, and pressed a Google Earth button that pinpointed the Apple store in Sanlitun (homing in on the Wi-Fi signal I guessed).  "Now, wait for this," he said, with the aplomb of a conjurer who was supremely confident of his ability to pull a rabbit out of his hat. "Enable compass!" he said theatrically as he pressed something on the iPad. "And away you go!"  The map on the iPad was then showing me that it was pointed in the direction of Gongti Bei Lu, due south of the shop. I have this facility on my mobile device, but I must admit that it is far more digestible in tablet form.

  "How long have you been doing this job?" I asked. "One year," he replied. "Before that I was in the education business in Guangzhou, but I just had to come to Beijing to work with Apple."  Chong was on a roll:  "I LOVE it!" he exuded.  "I LOVE introducing people to new things, and showing them how simple it is to get more from technology.  Apple is so simple to use," he continued, "Anyone can benefit from using it."  I was dumbfounded.  I had worked with Nokia in China for 5 years, and it was as if the Nokia "human technology" mantra had been given a new lease of life.   

  I thanked Chong again, who shook my hand again before bouncing over to one of the other demo tables. With people of his calibre; with such a pleasurable browsing experience; and with technology this cool there is no doubt that the brand will go from strength to strength in China.  What's more, Apple's long-standing barrier for many  pricing – (which has always been the brand's double-edged sword) is much less of an obstacle than it was before 8am this morning. 

  I stepped back from the table, gesturing to the mid-twenty something woman who was standing over my shoulder sensing that I was about to move away from the table – to take my place.  "Thanks!" she said. After a few minutes chatting I realised that the iPad really is a game-changer for Apple in China: 

  Ms Wang sums up the magnitude of the shift that Apple has pulled off:  "I never thought I'd be able to buy an Apple computer, but I now realise I can buy their very latest model for under 4,000 yuan!!" 

  I bet, though, that when Ms Wang (and millions more like her) has played for 30 minutes on the iPad, and had a chat with Chong or one of his colleagues about her options, the 1,600 yuan more that's required to buy the 64GB model (versus the 16GB) will all of a sudden seem to be quite a small price to pay.

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The Apple of their i