Apple delays global iPad launch

Apple is delaying the international launch of its iPad by a month, claiming US demand for the device has outstripped expectations. The tablet device, which has sold more than half a million units in its first week on sale in the US, is now scheduled to go on sale in other countries at "the end of May".

"Although we have delivered more than 500,000 iPads during its first week, demand is far higher than we predicted and will likely continue to exceed our supply over the next several weeks as more people see and touch an iPad," says Apple in a statement. "We will announce international pricing and begin taking online pre-orders on Monday, May 10."

It is not the first time Apple has reported supply issues with the touchscreen device. Unveiling the product for the first time in January, Apple CEO Steve Jobs said it would go on sale in the US in "late March". This was later pushed back to April 3 for the Wi-Fi version of the device. The 3G model is still to go on sale, with pre-orders listed to ship in "late April".

The initial delays came amid analyst claims that Apple was suffering production difficulties with its Asian suppliers. Last month, Canaccord Adams analyst Peter Misek predicted the iPad launch "may be somewhat limited as a manufacturing bottleneck has impacted production".

Apple declined to comment on the reported supply issues. However, Ovum analyst Tim Renowden says the new delay might reflect difficulty in ramping up production. "The iPad is based on a number of high-end components, including its Apple-designed A4 processor and 9.7-inch LCD screen, which will take Apple’s manufacturing partners time to produce in significant volumes," he says.

"If Apple's tightly-managed supply chain is genuinely stretched by unexpected demand,” he adds. “Apple is sensible to push back its international launch and focus on the strong demand in its home market and on meeting existing pre-orders for the 3G version of the iPad."

Apple is due to launch the iPad internationally in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, Switzerland and the UK, before rolling out to more countries later this year. Ovum estimates Apple will ship 13m iPads in total by the end of 2011. However, some analysts are still sceptical about the device, with recent some estimates as low as 2m.  

News of the delays come as Orange and O2 both announce they will offer dedicated iPad price plans in the UK, for all models of the device, from the end of May.