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iPad-mania: thousands queue for global roll-out

Thousands of excited and sleep-deprived gadget fans mobbed shops in Australia and Japan on Friday as Apple's iPad, touted as a revolution in computer use and publishing, began its international launch.

india Updated: May 28, 2010 09:23 IST

Thousands of excited and sleep-deprived gadget fans mobbed shops in Australia and Japan on Friday as Apple's iPad, touted as a revolution in computer use and publishing, began its international launch.

A queue some 200 metres (yards) long stretched round the block at Apple's flagship central Sydney store, flummoxing commuters bemused by the hype, while similar scenes were witnessed in downtown Tokyo.

The iPad -- a flat, 10-inch (25 centimetres) black tablet targeted at the leisure market -- was also going on sale in Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Switzerland on Friday as part of a staggered global roll-out.

In Sydney, security guards had to quell pushing and shoving amongst media as Rahul Koduri, who queued for some 30 hours from 2:00 am on Thursday, became the first to buy the touch-screen computer.

"It's fantastic, it was so worth the wait," said the 22-year-old, brandishing two iPad boxes.

The international launch date was pushed back by a month after huge demand in the United States, where one million iPads were sold in the first 28 days after the product's debut in early April.

Anoop Lad, 35, who was third in the Sydney queue, said about 15 people braved chilly conditions for the overnight wait.

"Conversation was good, interesting people. Everyone was hyped. We played some cards, we chatted. We talked about Apple stuff," he said.

The iPad range starts at 629 Australian dollars (533 US) for the basic Wi-Fi model, while a 64GB version that runs on advanced 3G phone networks is priced at 1,049 dollars.

In Japan, more than a thousand tech fanatics lined up in front of Apple stores and outlets of its exclusive local partner, mobile phone carrier Softbank, as well as major electrical shops.

Kazuki Miura, a 38-year-old freelance technology writer wearing a home-made iPad headpiece, was the first to get his hands on the brand-new gadget at Softbank's main Tokyo store.

"Now the time has come for us to hold an iPhone on the right (hand) and iPad on the left -- just like the samurai with two swords!" Softbank president Masayoshi Son told Miura.

The multi-functional device is tipped to revitalise media and publishing with The Australian newspaper and public broadcaster ABC both launching applications, along with satellite and cable TV network Foxtel.

But in Japan, content providers including powerful newspaper groups -- unaffected by the market downturn that is roiling media groups in the West -- are taking a wait-and-see approach about rolling out iPad "apps".

California-based Apple plans to bring the iPad to Austria, Belgium, Hong Kong, Ireland, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Singapore in July.

More than 5,000 apps have been developed for the device, according to an Apple spokesman, in addition to the 200,000 programs already available for the iPhone and iPod Touch, most of which run on the iPad.

Capital Markets analyst Mike Abramsky estimated that Apple is selling over 200,000 iPads a week -- more than estimated Mac computer sales of 110,000 a week, and vying with iPhone 3GS sales of 246,000 a week.

Apple has declined to reveal the number of pre-orders received for the iPad internationally, but Abramsky put it at around 600,000.

The huge interest comes despite a lukewarm reception for the iPad at its unveiling in January, when sceptics wrote it off as just a "big iPhone".