iPad goes on sale worldwide


Diehard fans mobbed Apple stores in Asia and Europe today as the iPad tablet computer went on sale outside the United States for the first time .

The device, a little smaller than a letter-size sheet and with a colour touchscreen, is designed for surfing the Web, watching movies and reading. It has been hailed by the publishing industry as a potential life-saver.

Apple has sold a million iPads in the United States since its April 3rd debut, exceeding the most bullish pre-launch estimates. Demand was so heavy the company delayed the international launch by a month.

RBC Capital Markets estimated iPad's total shipments will reach 8.13 million units worldwide by the end of the year.

"I wanted to touch it as soon as possible. I felt real excitement when it was finally in my hands," said Takechiyo Yamanaka (19), who had camped out in front of Tokyo's flagship Apple store from Wednesday evening to be the first in line.

"It's a bit of a gut decision, an emotional decision, because it's not really rationally justifiable," said Anna Kistner as she emerged from the Apple store in Munich, Germany with two iPads. "It's a lot of money."

The iPad is now on sale in Germany, France, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, Britain, Japan and Australia, and will be on sale in Canada later today.

Gadget fans who queued all night outside Belfast’s Apple store today became some of the first people in Ireland to buy an iPad. With the latest must-have item not expected to go on sale in the Republic of Ireland until July, would-be customers travelled north to be among the first to get their hands on the new touch screen computer.

And one committed fan said Apple staff in the company’s Northern Ireland store also sought to heighten the drama.

Lisa McCormick (27), from Lisburn on the outskirts of Belfast, said: “A black curtain was put up in front of the store so we could not see in, but at around 7am we got free coffee sent round from Starbucks, before the curtain fell.

“Everyone cheered and we were all ‘high-fived’ as we walked in. It was great craic.”

The buzz around the iPad helped propel Apple past Microsoft this week to become the world's most valuable technology stock, marking a remarkable turnaround of a company that nearly went out of business in the 1990s.

International sales are increasingly important to Apple, which now gets almost three-fifths of its revenue outside the United States.

It is counting on its pre-existing base of fans who already own an iPod, iPhone or Macintosh computer 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 underneath the Louvre 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 -- it has a real screen," said the 51-year-old, who works in video editing.

Dell's Streak tablet computer will go on sale next month in Britain.Sony and Hewlett-Packard also have tablets in the works.

In London, the circus-like atmosphere that has become traditional at Apple product launches prevailed.

"Jake! Jake! Jake!" Apple store staff chanted as Jake Lee, a 17 year-old student who had waited 20 hours entered the store.

This is ridiculous, amazing. I can't believe it," said Mr Lee, adding that the first thing he wanted to do when he got home was sleep -- and then play with the iPad.

Apple has yet to announce a launch date for mainland China, which could prove a much more difficult market to crack. Bootleg versions of the gadget are being snapped up online and in retail malls in the piracy-prone country.