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iPad 2 released abroad despite struggling to meet US demand

iPad 2: While the disaster in Japan may cause delays in production, the iPad 2 was rolled out overseas, Friday to much fanfare. Will Apple be able to meet the demand?

By Reuters / March 26, 2011

iPad 2 overseas release: Customers check out the new iPad 2 during the European launch of the updated Apple tablet computer product which went on sale at an Apple store in Madrid Friday.

Paul White/AP

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WELLINGTON/SYDNEY

Hundreds of customers formed long lines outside Apple stores on Friday for the international launch of the iPad 2, which has flown off the shelves in the United States and left the company struggling to meet demand.

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Analysts forecast some 1 million devices may have been sold in the first weekend of the U.S. launch, but many warn that it's not clear how supply constraints will affect availability after an earthquake and tsunami damaged Japan's tech industry.

The iPad 2, a thinner and faster version that features two cameras for video chat, was introduced in the United States on March 11. But some would-be buyers have expressed frustration at how difficult it has been to secure one of the wildly popular tablet computers, sparking speculation Apple misjudged demand.

The international launch kicked off in New Zealand, then Australia, and will be rolled out in other countries including France, Britain, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Canada and Mexico.

"Fantastic, my sister will love it," said Alex Lee, a Canadian backpacker clutching an iPad 2. He was first in line after queuing for two nights outside the Apple store in Sydney's central business district.

"If it wasn't for the iPad, I wouldn't be in Australia right now," said Lee, who had already bought an iPad 2 in the United States. "It's like a habit. I've also lined up on Regent Street in London for the iPhone."

Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs said on Tuesday the company was "working hard to build enough iPads for everyone" as the company struggled to meet U.S. demand.

Fiona Martin, a spokeswoman for Apple in Australia, declined to comment on whether there was enough stock to meet demand but tried to allay supply concerns.

"We've got plenty down there for all those folk that are in the queue," she said.

The first iPad, which went on sale a year ago, sold 500,000 units in the first week and crossed the 1 million unit mark in 28 days. Nearly 15 million iPads were sold in nine months of 2010, two or three times as many as analysts had predicted.

Analysts expect the company to sell 30 million or more this year, generating close to $20 billion in sales, even as other companies launch their own devices.

Apple staff in Sydney handed out sandwiches to those in the queue, while in Perth staff handed out water, ice cream and sun block against temperature expected to reach 36 Celsius.

However, in Helsinki, where the iPad 2 goes on sale in a few hours time, snow and temperatures around minus 3 Celsius appeared to be putting potential buyers off from forming queues just yet.

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