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Apple's iPad makes global debut

Apple's iPad went on sale outside the US for the first time Friday, with thousands of gadget fans storming stores to get their hands on the tablet device billed as a revolution in computer use and for which a France 24 application is now available.


AFP - Thousands of excited and sleep-deprived gadget fans mobbed shops in Australia and Japan 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 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 in the right (hand) and iPad in the left -- just like the samurai with two swords!" Softbank president Masayoshi Son said at an in-store presentation.

The multi-functional device is tipped to revitalise media and publishing with many major newspapers and broadcasters launching applications.

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

In central London about 40 gadget enthusiasts clad in sleeping bags and blankets were queuing outside the city's flagship Apple store at around 3:00am (0200 GMT), waiting for the store to open to get their hands on the device.

Jake Lee, 17, a student from Essex, was at the front of the queue with two friends after a 15 hour wait that had stretched since midday Thursday.

The group had received "a few weird looks" and an offer of 200 hundred pounds (290 dollars,) to give up their places at the front of the queue, but they refused. "It's for us, we don't want to give it to anyone else," said Lee.

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 more than 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".

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