Apple Inc. (AAPL) began selling its iPad 2 to queues of consumers in Australia and New Zealand today, as part of a release in 25 countries including the U.K., France, Switzerland and Germany, as the company tries to defend its dominance in tablet computers amid mounting competition.
“Ninety percent of the reason I came is for the experience, 10 percent for the product,” said Alex Lee, 27, lining up in Sydney, sitting on a folding chair next to a yellow suitcase that doubles as a coffee table. “I’m also getting one for charity,” to auction online and raise money for earthquake victims, he said. Lee came to the store straight from the airport while on a backpack tour across Asia.
Lines of hundreds of consumers in the streets of Sydney and Wellington marked the release of the device in more nations today as Apple defends its market share against rival products from companies including BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd. (RIMM) and Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. The proportion of Apple’s sales outside of the Americas rose to 62 percent in the last fiscal year, the highest in at least seven years amid the growing popularity of iPhones in China and Asia.
Rudolf Jacobi, 58, from Gelnhausen east of Frankfurt, is among 10 people at the head of a queue that snakes around the block in Frankfurt, waiting for the iPad 2 to go on sale at 5 p.m. local time. “I’ve been waiting since 6 a.m.,” Jacobi said. He had planned a vacation for next week and booked an extra day when he found out the device would be released today.
Jacobi is a personal driver for managers in the Frankfurt area and spends about 1,000 euros a year on Apple products. On one of the warmest and sunniest days of the year so far, Jacobi said the Apple store provided umbrellas, water and free coffee.
Apple rose 1.5 percent to $350.27 at 10:38 a.m. in New York trading.
The iPad 2 will be available in Hong Kong, Singapore and additional countries in April. It was released in the U.S. on March 11, when hundreds of people queued at Apple’s Fifth Avenue store in New York.
The maker of iMac computers, iPhones and iPod music players delayed the introduction of its new tablet computer in Japan following the earthquakes. The company hasn’t set a new release date, Natalie Kerris, a spokeswoman, said March 15.
Apple may have sold as many as 500,000 units of the iPad 2, over the March 11 weekend of its debut, analysts estimated. The Cupertino, California-based company, which has sold more than 15 million iPads in the past year, has said more than 65 percent of Fortune 100 companies are testing or deploying the iPad, including Procter & Gamble Co. (PG) and Hyatt Hotels Corp. (H)
Apple may face logistical problems and supply shortages for components after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, IHS ISuppli said last week. The iPad 2 has five parts made in Japan -- NAND flash from Toshiba Corp., dynamic random access memory from Elpida Memory Inc., an electronic compass from AKM Semiconductor, the touch-screen overlay glass likely from Asahi Glass Co. and the system battery from Apple Japan Inc., ISuppli said.
The iPad line is the fastest-selling technology product in history, measured by revenue, according to Creative Strategies Inc.
Overall, there are 102 tablets from 64 makers either on sale or in development, according to consulting firm PRTM.
A BlackBerry PlayBook with 16 gigabytes of memory will cost $499, a 32-gigabyte model will retail for $599 and a version with 64 gigabytes will cost $699, RIM and Best Buy said March 22 in a statement.
On March 2, Apple Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs took the stage at a company event in San Francisco to introduce the iPad 2, making his first public appearance since taking medical leave in January. The device, a follow-up to a tablet released last April, has a faster chip, and front and rear cameras, Jobs said. It’s also 33 percent thinner than its predecessor.
The new model ranges in price from $499 for a base model to $829 for the top-of-the-line version.
In less than a year, the iPad has become one of Apple’s top sellers, surpassing the almost decade-old iPod media player. The new model faces upstart tablets from Motorola Mobility, Samsung Electronics Co. and RIM.
Motorola said last month that sales of the Xoom, available through Verizon Wireless, had started “relatively well” and it plans to introduce tablets with other carriers this year. The Xoom has drawn accolades from reviewers -- including Bloomberg’s Rich Jaroslovsky, who said it’s a “worthwhile competitor” to the iPad.
The iPad 2 will account for at least 20 million tablet computer sales in the U.S. this year, or 83 percent of the market, said Sarah Rotman Epps, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Massachusetts. This fiscal year, the iPad may bring in as much as $16.3 billion in revenue for Apple, according to Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. in New York.
The iPhone, now Apple’s top-selling product, didn’t cross that threshold until last year, more than three years after its introduction.
“The reason I’m standing here is because it’s my birthday in a couple of days’ time,” said Lincoln Gould, chief executive officer of Booksellers New Zealand, while waiting in a line in capital Wellington. “I bought an iPad for my wife for Christmas. She can have that now.”
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