Apple to stick to iPad 2 global rollout schedule

By Reuters
Posted March 22 at 4:28 p.m.

Apple Inc. will stick to plans to roll out its newest iPad on Friday to 25 more markets, including France and the United Kingdom, even as it fails to meet the high demand for the gadget in the United States.

In affirming its international plans, Apple did not provide any hard figures for U.S. sales since the newest iPad, a thinner and faster version that features two cameras for video chat, was introduced March 11. Prices start at $499.

A week and a half after the iPad 2 went on sale, hundreds of customers continue to line up outside retail stores with many being turned away due to low supply. Some would-be buyers have expressed frustration at how difficult it has been to secure one of the wildly popular tablets. Some analysts have speculated that Apple misjudged demand, given the widespread sellouts.

The wait time for an iPad ordered online is now four to five weeks.

“We’re experiencing amazing demand for iPad 2 in the U.S., and customers around the world have told us they can’t wait to get their hands on it,” Chief Executive Steve Jobs said in a statement Tuesday. “We appreciate everyone’s patience, and we are working hard to build enough iPads for everyone.”

Apple’s Tim Cook, who is overseeing day-to-day business while Jobs is on a medical leave, has long been responsible for sales and operations, while being lauded for managing the company’s complex and far-flung supply chain.

The first iPad, which went on sale a year ago, sold 300,000 units on the first day, 500,000 in the first week and 1 million in 28 days.

Apple plans to roll out the new iPad on Friday to countries including Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, and Spain.

Considering the sellouts in the United States, analysts including Ticonderoga’s Brian White had raised the question of whether Apple would possibly delay the rollout elsewhere.

Apple also said all models of iPad 2 will be available in Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore and additional countries in April.

Analysts also are concerned about shortages of key components for the iPad 2 because of the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan this month.

Several components, including the battery and the flash memory to store music and video on the device, come from Japan, according to research firm IHS iSuppli.

Apple delayed sales of the iPad 2 in Japan but said that had nothing to do with component shortages.

Shares of Apple were up 71 cents, at $340, on Nasdaq.

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