Apple's iPad tablet computer hits U.S. stores

11:21, April 04, 2010      

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Apple Inc.'s much- anticipated iPad tablet computer went on sale in the United States Saturday morning with consumers lined up in front of retail stores across the country for the latest gadget.

Consumers try iPads in an Apple store in Arlington, Virginia state of the United States, on April 3, 2010. Apple iPad, much-anticipated tablet computer of Apple Inc., went on sale on Saturday. (Xinhua Photo)

The iPad was available in more than 200 U.S. Apple stores and most stores run by consumer electronics retailer Best Buy beginning from 9:00 a.m. local time, and from New York City to Palo Alto in the west coast, enthusiastic fans even camped out overnight outside some Apple stores, hoping to be the first to grab one.

Consumers try iPads in an Apple store in Arlington, Virginia state of the United States, on April 3, 2010. Apple iPad, much-anticipated tablet computer of Apple Inc., went on sale on Saturday. (Xinhua/Zhang Jun)

"We came specially for the debut long away from Holland," Wim Hofman and Hans Schoemakers from the Netherlands, told Xinhua outside Apple's flagship store on Fifth Avenue in New York City.

"We spent some 3,000 euros on travel and hotel rooms specially for this event," they said.

Outside an Apple store in California's Burlingame, a city south of San Francisco, dozens of people were already queuing before the door opened at 9:00 a.m..

Hiro Kishimoto, a Japanese computer researcher who was in San Francisco to attend a meeting, came as early as 5 a.m. and was the first in the line for purchase.

He said he intends to use the iPad to read books and magazines, believing the device will be a good tool for Web surfing.

"Because the laptop is too heavy to carry on all the time, when you are in the living rooms, maybe the iPad is the best device to use," Kishimoto told Xinhua.

Breanna Oliveros, a 13-year-old from South San Francisco, was in the line to pick up the iPad her grandfather pre-ordered on March 12 as her birthday present.

"I'm going to use it for education like read, research and keep notes, and for my own social life at the same time," said the girl who was accompanied by her grandfather in the line.

The iPad models that hit the U.S. market Saturday, with price starting from 499 U.S. dollars, only have Wi-Fi links to the Internet.

According to Apple, models that have both Wi-Fi and 3G connectivity will be available in the U.S. and in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, Switzerland and the UK in late April.

Featuring a 9.7-inch touch screen, iPad can let users perform various tasks including browsing the Web, watching videos, playing games and reading eBooks.

Since Apple unveiled the iPad on Jan. 27 this year, interests about the device have been building up among consumers, developers and content providers.

The iPad has received generally positive reviews, but analysts are cautions about whether Apple's latest gadget can repeat the success of the company's hit products such as iPod and iPhone in the mass market.

Apple is trying to remake the tablet computer, which has been available since the 1990s but failed to catch on in the mass market.

The iPad doesn't support Adobe's Flash software used to watch much of the video on the Web and also lacks features such as physical keyboard, USB ports and multitasking, which may limit its attractions to the mass consumers, some analysts said.

Admitting that iPad did have compromises and drawbacks, Walter Mossberg, an influential technology columnist at The Wall Street Journal, believed the device has the potential to change portable computing profoundly, and to challenge the primacy of the laptop.

"It could even help, eventually, to propel the finger-driven, multitouch user interface ahead of the mouse-driven interface that has prevailed for decades," Mossberg wrote in a recent review.

However, he also noted that "only time will tell if it's a real challenger to the laptop and netbook."

Analysts have been closely watching how iPad sales will perform over the first weekend, with some expecting the number to be around hundreds of thousands.

Worldwide iPad sales could reach 7.1 million units in 2010, double next year and nearly triple to 20.1 million in 2012, market research firm iSuppli predicted on Friday.

Sales in 2010 will be driven by early adopters and others attracted to the iPad's unique touch-screen-based user interface, and sales in the next two years will be driven up by factors including a flood of new applications, improved functionality and declining prices, iSuppli said.



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