Apple's new iPad launch will draw protesters as well as fans

The scheduled March 16 launch of the new Apple iPad is bound to draw big crowds to the company's stores in New York, San Francisco and Washington --- with the crowds likely to comprise not just the Apple aficionados waiting to grab the third-generation tablet, but also dozens of protestors highlighting concerns about the welfare of the employees in Apple's China-based device-manufacturing plants.

The demonstrators, who are likely to make their presence felt at the Apple stores during the 8 a. m. release of the new iPad, will chiefly be part of the protesting group which came up with a digital petition on the Change. org website, with 250,000 signatures.

The group has been asking Apple to make the necessary improvements in the working conditions at its Chinese factories; and will probably mess up the new iPad's debut by marching past the TV crews - expected to be present at the stores - with critical messages about the alleged plight of the workers.

The demonstrations by the protestors at Apple's big city stores on Friday might just turn out to be a spoilsport for the new iPad's launch event, which analysts otherwise believe will be an overwhelming one as Apple is expected to hit the `1 million units sold' landmark within 24 hours of the device's release.

Along with its availability at Apple stores, the new iPad will also be available - though in limited numbers - at some other stores like Best Buy, Radio Shack, Wal-Mart, Target, Sam's Club, as well as AT&T and Verizon locations.