There's an excellent article at Bloomberg Businessweek (that's actually easier to read on their mobile site) about the forthcoming launch of the Friends sets. It provides an interesting insight into how the theme was developed, how it caters for the different ways that girls play and why the sets have different-sized figures, 'ladyfigs' it calls them, because, apparently, "Let’s be honest: Girls hate [the minifigure]".
It states that they will be available "Dec. 26 in the U.K. and Jan. 1 in the U.S", although as you may have read in the forum, people in some European countries have been able to buy them already.
I like the quote at the end: "Oh, we’re going to buy Lego Friends," says Joe Meno (when asked about AFOL's view of them), “but we’re going to buy it for all the wrong reasons. We want the sets for the new colors. One of the colors is ideal for a Perry the Platypus I want to build.” The lady minifig, he predicts, “I’ll probably toss aside.” I think that pretty much captures my thoughts exactly!
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