Apple said on Friday that the first versions of its iPad tablet computer would be available from April 3 in the US, about a week later than planned, which could be the result of minor manufacturing delays that analysts have cited recently.
The earliest models for the touch-screen device, which resembles a much larger version of the iPhone, will use only WiFi internet connections. Versions that also have 3G connectivity via AT&T would come in “late April”, the company said.
Both types of iPad will also go on sale in late April in the UK, Japan, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Australia, Canada and Switzerland, with other markets added later in the year.
Apple shares were up about 4 per cent by mid-day on Friday to a record $218.55 due to investor relief that the speculated delays were not longer.
Apple said it would start accepting orders for the machines next Friday. They are priced from $499 for WiFi-only editions with the least storage capacity. The 3G iPads will range from $629 to $829, with monthly connectivity charges on top.
Apple’s profit marginsfor the devices have been pegged at between 30 and 50 per cent, far greater than those on most personal computers.
Sales volume estimates have varied widely. Last week, Morgan Stanley projected 2010 shipments of 6m, almost double the average Wall Street expectation. That would still represent a relatively small chunk of the 120m total shipments of consumer notebook computers that cost less than $800.
Apple said on Friday that applications available for buyers to download on the first day would include its iBookstore, with digitised versions of books from publishers such as Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin and Simon & Schuster. Book prices are expected to be higher for bestsellers than the $9.99 set by Amazon, which offers electronic books for its Kindle e-reader and other platforms.
Apple, which has its headquarters in Cupertino, California, remains in protracted talks with other content suppliers, especially television studios, newspapers and magazines, about terms for making their content available.
CBS, the TV network, has agreed to sell shows for 99 cents on the machine, an acknowledgement that video sales at higher prices on the iPod and iPhone have not taken off.
The availability of content will be a major factor driving purchases of the iPad, which is seen as innovative, but not essential for cash-strapped consumers.
A more certain consumer base is that of mobile gamers. The vast majority of the 150,000 iPhone and iPod touch applications, including a large proportion of games, will work immediately on the iPad. Developers are working on new versions of their software to capitalise on the 10-inch iPad screen.