iPad to hit US stores, then 9 more countries

iPad to hit US stores, then 9 more countries

Apple iPad

The 9.7-inch touchscreen iPad, which is designed to surf the Web, play video and games, and read digital books, is the most anticipated product launch from Apple since the iPhone in 2007.

Chief Executive Steve Jobs unveiled the tablet in late January, but the company did not announce any international markets until Friday, when it said the tablet will go on sale in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, Switzerland and the UK in late April. The April 3 launch date means Apple won’t likely book any iPad revenue in the current fiscal second quarter, which closes at the end of March. Nonetheless, Barclay’s analyst Ben Reitzes said the launch plans added some “welcome clarity.”

“Not only is the device available April 3 in the US, but we believe availability in nine other countries by the end of April is likely quicker than many thought, lending potential upside to consensus estimates into mid year,” he wrote in a research note.

Analysts are currently forecasting Apple’s fiscal 2010 earnings per share at $11.62, according to Thomson Reuters, up from $9.08 last year. There has been some debate on how successful the much-hyped iPad really will be. While most agree that the device is well-designed and appealing to consumers, some analysts are not convinced there is a big market for tablet computers.

The iPad will have to compete for consumer attention with a myriad of established devices, including smartphones, netbooks and dedicated e-readers like Amazon.com Inc’s Kindle.

Apple said an iBooks application for the iPad — which will compete with the Kindle — would be available as a free download on April 3.

The US launch date for the iPad model with short-range Wi-Fi wireless links, starting at a price tag of $499, is slightly later than the previously expected late March launch.

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