Wednesday, September 21, 2011, 10:11 pm PT (01:11 am ET)
Apple prepping pilot program to loan iPads to retail staffApple is making preparations to try out a program that allows retail employees to borrow iPads from the company, according to a new report.
CNet has learned that the Cupertino, Calif., company plans to start the pilot program exclusively at its flagship store in San Francisco. Under the program, retail employees at the store will be allowed to "check out" iPads for a week at a time.
Though further details on the program are lacking, it has been suggested that the pilot is an initiative to help retail staff become more familiar with the device ahead of the launch of iOS 5. An Apple spokesman declined to comment on the program.
The iPad now plays a central role to Apple's retail strategy. Shortly after the 10th anniversary of its retail business, the company overhauled its stores to add iPad 2 "smart signs" next to all of its products.
Days before the launch of the original iPad, Apple's retail employees were still in the dark about the device. Staff were also unsure whether they would receive a discount on the iPad.
The iPad pilot program isn't quite as generous as a 2007 initiative, where Apple gave out free first-generation iPhones to all of its employees.
Apple's retail business continues to expand rapidly, bringing in $3.5 billion in revenue last quarter. The company is set to open 30 locations this quarter, including high-profile stores in Hong Kong and Shanghai.
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