Apple Inc said on Wednesday it would delay for one month the international roll-out of its iPad tablet computer, due to heavy demand and swift sales after its launch in the United States.
Apple, whose shares rose about 1 percent, faces a potential backlash from customers and retailers overseas, but analysts said any frustration would likely give way to pent-up demand for the popular touchscreen device once it hits store shelves. In the United States, the device has proven more popular than expected, selling 500,000 units in the week after its April 3 launch. “It is a little surprising: 500,000 — weren't they expecting that?” said Hudson Square Research analyst Daniel Ernst. “On the flip side, it's a high-quality problem. There isn't another product on the market like it.” The company expects sales will “likely continue to exceed our supply over the next several weeks.” Apple plans to announce international pricing and begin taking online orders on May 10, and iPads will hit store shelves at the end of May.
Separately, Vodafone Group today said it will offer iPad price plans from the end of May in Australia, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the Britain. The delays risk irking customers and creating headaches for retailers banking on the popular tablet computer to draw in store traffic. But Apple may reap higher margins from additional sales made at U.S. Apple stores and through its website, according to Cross Research analyst Shannon Cross. “It validates that there is strong end-market for the device and that the demand was not coming just from early adopters or 'Mac heads',” she said. “It has actually got widespread interest.” The iPad's early U.S. sales impressed analysts, many of whom expect 1 million units to be sold in the quarter ending June, and roughly 5 million in 2010, though estimates vary widely. Analyst Cross on Wednesday raised her iPad sales estimate in the quarter to 2.25 million iPads from 1.5 million, and boosted her price target for Apple shares to $315 from $310. The electronics giant has staked its reputation on the 9.7-inch touchscreen tablet, essentially a cross between a smartphone and a laptop. It is helping foster a market for tablet computers that is expected to grow to as many as 50 million units by 2014, according to analysts.