Apple’s iPad selling well outside US ahead of official launch

Australian Macworld staff
23 April, 2010
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The iPad appears to be selling well around the world despite the fact that Apple’s official overseas launch isn’t until the end of May, as speciality stores obtain them to resell at premium prices and travellers to the US bring them home.

While we only have a little over a month to wait until a local release, some countries have no idea when (if ever) they’ll get an official launch. But that hasn’t stopped them going the ‘grey import’ route we’ve previously described.

The popular device is on sale at two stores near the main electronics bazaar in Taipei, the capital city of Taiwan. And despite their close proximity, the store owners aren’t competing with each other.

“Why should we try to compete?” asked a clerk in Pro International Communication, a store near Taipei’s Guang Hua computer market. “These things are selling so well that we’ll have to get more soon. We don’t need to lower prices.”

Gadget lovers on the island don’t want to wait, nor do people who want to look cool with the latest Apple gadget. And eager consumers are paying a premium for an early iPad. The two Taipei stores maintain identical prices, NT$25,000 (US$800) for the 16GB model, NT$29,000 (US$925) for the 32GB version and NT$32,000 (US$1,020) for the 64GB iPad. The US retail prices are $499, $599 and $699, respectively. (International pricing is yet to be announced.)

Estimates of how many iPads have been shipped or carried outside the US range into the tens of thousands, and one analyst speculated the figure could be much higher. He noted that when the iPhone first launched, only about half the iPhones sold early on were activated on AT&T networks.

“Where did all the other ones go? Overseas, perhaps?” said Allen Nogee, wireless technology analyst at market researcher In-Stat, of Scottsdale, Arizona.

Most analysts said the real number is difficult to assess because there are no official international sales yet.

“Apple has nothing to do with this. It is essentially the grey market,” said Tony Massimini, chief of technology at Semico Research in Phoenix, Arizona. “The iPads are purchased in the US and then shipped to wherever by whomever,” he added.

The other Taipei shop owner, Mr. Wang, said he bought about 300 iPads from a company in the US that specialises in procuring speciality goods and re-selling them to stores overseas. He believes around a dozen stores in Taipei offer iPads, and estimates that thousands of them are on sale citywide. His store, Landmark, caters to people looking for hard-to-get gadgets. Similar stores at electronics bazaars in Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai are also selling the devices, he said.

“We sell about 10 iPads a day,” he said, as he answered another call asking about the device. “There’s a shortage of them in the US right now, you know,” he said. “Maybe because so many are being shipped overseas.”

The demand is only likely to have increased, after Apple delayed the official international launch of the iPad by a month, due to strong US sales.

“Demand in the US was much, much stronger than we predicted and so regrettably, we had to push out the international launch to be able to launch the 3G unit in the US and to get the Wi-Fi units into the US,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s chief operating officer, answering questions during the company’s quarterly investors’ conference on Tuesday. “We will see where this thing goes but it has shocked us the level of demand, at least initially,” he added.

The company sold 300,000 iPads on the first day the device went on sale, with the figure growing to 450,000 by day five. Apple declined to update the number of iPads sold at the time of the investor’s conference.

The iPad’s overseas launch will now commence at the end of May, when it will become available here in Australia and eight other countries, including Germany, Japan and the UK.

Many potential buyers in these places may opt to wait for the official local launch, though there are still plenty of iPads floating about. Especially among the Australian developer community, where pretty much everyone seems to have an iPad. Everyone we interviewed about their plans for the platform now has one, and Australian Macworld has procured one to play with through Ship2Me.

Outside of the die-hard fans, Australia’s situation is similar to that of the UK, where analyst Tim Renowden from Ovum says “we aren’t yet seeing the iPads in shops, although some online resellers and auction sites have iPads available (with a price premium)”.

Of course, there is no way of knowing how many iPads have left US shores, but it’s definitely a lucrative business for some.

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