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Countdown begins for launch of Apple iPad in shops here

IRISH customers can take the first bite of the much-hyped Apple iPad on Friday.

The touch-screen tablet computer goes on sale through a handful of authorised Apple resellers here and on the online Apple store.

The iPad, which was launched by Apple chief executive Steve Jobs in January, is priced from €499 here.

The cost of the hand-held computer rises to €800 for the deluxe 64GB model which has built-in 3G for internet on the move, but analysts said that prices are almost identical to those in the UK and the rest of Europe.

The iPad runs the same software as the iPhone but has a larger screen and higher grade facilities. It is designed for browsing the internet, watching movies and reading e-books and comes in three capacities -- 16GB, 32GB and 64GB. It is available in models that have WiFi only or WiFi and 3G.

More than three million handsets have been sold since it first went on sale on April 3.

Within 28 days, the iPad had shipped more than one million of the devices, selling only in the US and the international launch was delayed due to high demand in America.

In addition to Ireland, the product will also hit the shelves in Austria, Belgium, Hong Kong, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand and Singapore on Friday.

This news of the launch in additional countries came as Apple headed off negative publicity over the iPhone 4 antenna issue.

Chief executive Steve Jobs said reported connectivity problems were common to other smartphones, however this was rejected by two of Asia's biggest technology groups. Mr Jobs eventually apologised for the antennae problems, which can lead to dropped calls.


However, HTC and Samsung, both significant smartphone manufacturers, have rejected that their phones encounter the same problems.

Meanwhile, computer giant HP which has acquired smartphone maker Palm has completed a trademark application for 'PalmPad' signalling its intention to go head to head with Apple's iPad.

Earlier this month, HP confirmed it completed the US$1.2bn (€0.92bn) acquisition of Palm. The firm plans to feature Palm's webOS in a new line of tablet PCs, netbooks and smartphones.