iPad-mania as thousands queue for global roll-out
Thousands of die-hard Apple fans mobbed shops in parts of Europe and Asia on Friday after the iPad, touted as a revolution in personal computing, began its global launch.
Long queues of customers snaked outside Apple shops in Australia and Japan hours before the opening and similar huddled masses of gadget lovers turned out at stores in six European countries including Britain and France.
The iPad -- a flat, 10-inch (25-centimetre) black tablet -- was also going on sale in Canada as part of a global roll-out that was pushed back by a month due to huge demand in the United States.
One million iPads were sold in 28 days in the United States after the product's debut in early April.
At Apple's flagship store in Paris, set in the prestigious underground mall of the Louvre museum, 24-year-old engineer Audrey Sobgou beamed as she walked away with one of the prized tablets.
Sobgou travelled 205 kilometres (127 miles) from her home town in Lille, northern France, and waited nearly two hours before stepping inside the busy Apple store to make her purchase.
"I'm not a victim of hype," she insisted. "I know Apple products and it's about the quality, the interface, how it's designed and what it can do. With elegance and style."
Hundreds of people had already queued outside of the Paris Apple store hours before it opened at 8:00 am (0600 GMT) and the launch made the front page of major newspapers.
The freesheet Metro daily in Paris showed a full-page picture of the tablet under the question "iPad: gadget or revolution?".
In Britain, a few dozen enthusiasts were already waiting outside the flagship Apple store in central London at 3:00 am (0200 GMT) to get their hands on the iPad when the store opened at 8:00 am.
Most of them were sitting on deck chairs and some were wrapped in sleeping bags and blankets.
Staff escorted the first group of customers one by one up to buy their iPad after they opened the doors, whooping, chanting and cheering.
"I queued overnight for about 20 hours since midday yesterday but it was very, very worth it," Jake Lee, a 17-year-old student from Essex, told AFP, clutching his treasured iPad.
"I wanted the iPad since it was announced, I'm just really excited about it," he told AFP.
The iPad also went on sale in Germany, Italy, Spain and Switzerland and will be followed in July by a launch in Austria, Belgium, Ireland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.
Alejandro Barras, manager of the Apple store in downtown Madrid, said the iPad sold out one hour after opening.
"We were hoping to make an impact and that turned out to be the case," he said, adding that all several hundred tablets were sold within an hour.
About 30 people waited under a driving rain in Frankfurt outside the Apple store, while 19-year-old student Claudio Roccario was among some one hundred customers waiting to buy his iPad in Milan.
"I wanted to be among the first," he said, echoing the sentiment of most Apple devotees who turned out for the first day the iPad was for sale.
Europe's biggest automaker, Volkswagen, seized on the launch to announce that it had developed a digital customer magazine as an app, especially for the iPad, in five languages.
Many Apple aficionados in Zurich camped out overnight in front of the store to be among the first to buy the tablet and download some of the 5,000 available apps -- the name for the media applications that run on the device.
Prices in Japan and Australia for the basic 16GB iPad are comparable to US prices, although a significant markup by Apple in Britain and continental Europe has triggered some grumbling.
In France, wifi models sell for between 499 and 699 euros (620 and 969 dollars) with the 3G models going for between 599 and 799 euros.
The multi-functional device is tipped by some pundits to revitalise media and publishing, with many major newspapers and broadcasters launching applications.
Newspaper mogul Rupert Murdoch has said the iPad has the potential to save the newspaper industry, but in France that enthusiasm is not shared by President Nicolas Sarkozy's minister for the digital economy.
Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet last month dismissed the "marketing frenzy" surrounding the iPad launch and declared that it was "a bit heavy" compared to the Archos tablet, made in France.
As well as the five other European countries, California-based Apple plans to bring the iPad to Hong Kong, Mexico, New Zealand and Singapore in July.
Apple has declined to reveal the number of pre-orders received for the iPad internationally, but Capital Markets analyst Mike Abramsky put it at around 600,000.
© 2010 AFP