Consumers huddled under sleeping bags outside Apple stores overnight awaiting the official European launch of the iPad, were beaten to the punch by online users who started taking delivery on Thursday.
The device hit stores in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and the UK this morning, however posts by online customers on social networking sites yesterday revealed that the first products were already out there, the Daily Telegraph reported.
Customers have been able to pre-order the device on Apple’s website since May 10, but high demand prompted Apple to warn delivery might be delayed until June 7, according to The Guardian.
Apple claimed that demand outstripped supply in the first month of sales in the US, where it took just 28 days to ship 1 million units compared to 74 days for the iPhone.
Ovum analyst Adrian Drury told WSJ.com supply-chain problems were the only barrier to Apple achieving similar figures in Europe.
And Katy Huberty, an analyst at Morgan Stanley, said European sales could eclipse the US figure, because the iPad will be available from more operators FT.com reported.
Carriers including Vodafone, Orange, T-Mobile and Telefonica have announced data plans for the tablet in Europe, which Apple has priced at £429 (€505) for a 16GB WiFi only version, up to £699 for a 16GB WiFi/3G model.
Early international launches of the device have been successful, with couriers in Australia struggling to keep up with the volume of pre-orders already received, the Sydney Morning Herald said.
In Japan, anticipation for the device had reached a fever pitch even before the launch, with Apple's exclusive carrier Softbank closing down pre-ordering systems after just three days, WSJ said.
IDC predicts the tablet market will grow from 7.6 million units today to 46 million units worldwide by 2014.