In Japan, iPhone 3G makes its debut

It's the first time the iPhone has been available in Japan

TOKYO -- Amid cheers, waiting lines and smoke, Apple Inc.'s iPhone made its Japan debut this morning.

The launch marks the first time the iPhone has been available in Japan, and the chance to be one of the first to own one attracted more than 1,000 people to the store of Japanese carrier Softbank in Tokyo's trendy Harajuku neighborhood by the time sales began at 7 a.m.

As the countdown clock reached zero, those waiting cheered and special-effects smoke enveloped a crowd of more than 100 journalists and photographers who had turned out to see the launch of the handset.

"This is the year that the cell phone becomes an Internet-connecting machine," said Masayoshi Son, CEO of Softbank, speaking in front of the store just before the launch. "Today is the day that will make it real, and I think it's a historic day."

It took about 20 minutes for the first customer to emerge from the shop clutching his new iPhone. He was actually third in line but had managed to get his application processed the fastest, so at first he excused himself for beating out the two people who had queued ahead of him.

"It's great, isn't it?" he said. "I've already used it to call my girlfriend."

Softbank will begin sales at its other stores and through electronics retailers starting at noon today.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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