The appeal of the Apple iPad is being tested overseas as it launches in nine countries Friday. Japan is one market where it is expected to have a special allure.
Two months after the start of U.S sales, Apple kicked off iPad sales in Japan, Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and Canada early Friday morning.
And in Japan, the world's second largest economy, it was launched with the kind of fanfare typically reserved for a new game machine from Nintendo.
Friday morning at an Apple store in Tokyo's Ginza district a line formed that was estimated at 1,200 people, according to media reports. Other stores in Tokyo, such as one operated by Soft Bank in Tokyo's Omotesando area, also saw long lines.
Though no one can predict yet what the iPad's strong suit will be overseas, it's expected to have special appeal in Japan as a medium for viewing manga and magazines, and playing games. Japan's online media is saturated with reports of how the iPad will "revolutionize" magazines and newspapers in that country. A wide variety of "shukanshi," or weekly magazines, are immensely popular in Japan and lend themselves to viewing on the iPad.
If successful, the iPad would be a small-device trifecta in Japan for Apple. The iPod dominates, at Sony's expense, the digital music player market in Japan and the iPhone is now the best selling smartphone.
Apple Japan is selling both the Wi-Fi only and 3G versions, starting at 48,800 yen and 61,800 yen, respectively.
In Australia, Apple opened its seventh Australian retail store in Sydney's Bondi Junction to coincide with the start of sales, according to CNET Australia.
If overseas sales are any reflection of those in the U.S., availability will likely be limited. Many stores in the states have been chronically sold out of the iPad, especially the 3G version. Forecasts currently put worldwide iPad sales at about 5 million this year.