Diehard fans mobbed Apple Inc stores in Asia and Europe as the iPad tablet computer went on sale outside the US for the first time on Friday.
The device, smaller than a letter-size sheet and with a colour touchscreen, is designed for Net surfing, watching movies and reading.
Apple has sold a million iPads in the US since its April 3 debut, exceeding the most bullish pre-launch estimates. Demand was so heavy that Apple delayed the international launch by a month.
RBC Capital Markets estimated iPad’s total shipments will reach 8.13 million units worldwide by the year-end.
“I wanted to touch it as soon as possible. I felt real excitement when it was finally in my hands,” said Takechiyo Yamanaka, who had camped out in front of Tokyo’s Apple store from Wednesday evening.
The iPad is on sale in Germany, France, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, UK, Japan & Australia, and will be on sale in Canada on Friday.
Prices for the cheapest version range from $499 in the US to the equivalent of $617 in Britain.
The buzz around the iPad helped propel Apple past Microsoft this week to become the world’s most valuable technology stock.
Apple is counting on its pre-existing base of fans who already own an iPod to add the iPad to their collection, as rivals line up with their own tablet offerings.
Pascal Lordon, among the first in line at the flagship Apple store in Paris, said he already had all Apple’s other products and described himself as a big fan. “The iPhone created a new need but the screen is small. The iPad is more comfortable.”
Dell’s Streak tablet computer will go on sale next month in Britain. Sony Corp and Hewlett-Packard also have tablets in the works.
However, there is concern that Apple may not be able to supply enough of the device. Chinese contract manufacturer Foxconn, whose customers include Apple, has workers working round the clock at its Shenzhen factory.
Sony e-reader to take on Apple
SONY CORP will launch an e-reader and online content distribution service in Japan by year-end, taking on Apple’s iPad. It plans to launch the operations in China, Australia, Spain and Italy also. Sony has tied up with telecoms operator KDDI Corp to set up a planning company to prepare for the service.