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All I want for Christmas is an iPad

The Apple iPad tablet won’t be officially available in Malta by Christmas.

The Apple iPad tablet won’t be officially available in Malta by Christmas.

The Apple iPad, one of the most-wanted gadgets this year, will not be officially available in Malta before Christmas, i-Tech can reveal.

Launched earlier this year, the iPad created a new wave of interest in tablets, catching Apple by surprise and delaying availability as supply could not cope with the demand.

Sources close to Apple told i-Tech that Apple is indeed considering the official launch of iPad in Malta but it wants a successful launch and good take-up thanks to good data access packages that exploit the capabilities of the 10-inch tablet.

The iPad comes in two versions, one that connects only to wi-fi and one that can connect to a 3G mobile network. Malta’s national mobile network operators, Vodafone Malta, Go Mobile and Melita Mobile all provide data access over their 3G network. i-Tech is informed that Apple is keeping its options open as to which local network/s it will partner with to offer data packages for the iPad. This means that there is no guarantee that Vodafone Malta will remain the only Apple partner in Malta, having officially supported the Apple iPhone in Malta for the past three years.

“We do not have any official dates as yet as regards the iPad,” a Vodafone spokesman told i-Tech when asked to indicate a date when it would be officially available in Malta.

The iPad is already available in Malta from some retail outlets that sell it at a higher price than our comparative markets, such as the UK. Others have bought it while abroad or ordered it from online shopping sites such as eBay, supported by the fact that the iPad does not come locked like the iPhone available from Vodafone and can be connected to any mobile operator.

However there is no official Maltese partner that gives technical support as in other countries that have already gone through an official launch. The latest batch of countries to get it a few days ago include Taiwan, South Korea, the Scandinavian countries, Portugal and some Eastern European countries.

The very slow roll-out around the world is also the result of the unexpected heavy demand for the gadget which claimed the top spot of the most wanted presents for this holiday season in the United States and the few other developed markets where it’s available. Indeed, iPad sales skyrocketed while the sale of netbooks, the ultra-portable laptops, fell down significantly this year. Research firm Gartner last week revised its outlook for PC sales for 2010 and 2011, saying the iPad and other tablets are likely to eat some 10 per cent of the PC market.

i-Tech reviewed the iPad last September, when Vodafone Malta gave one to a select number of local journalists to test it for a few hours. Our verdict was that it is a fine piece of equipment but the question is whether you need a tablet and you can afford it at that price. iPads are still available for testing at Vodafone’s retail outlets.

The iPad is not the first tablet to hit the market over the years but previous models did not attract much attention. The world’s top manufacturers have already announced plans to try to ride the wave interest for tablet computers created by the iPad. Samsung, with its 7-inch Galaxy Tab, already available in Malta, was one of the first to launch its “anti-iPad” based on Android, Google’s operating system for smartphones. Recently Microsoft entered the fray with its new Windows Phone 7 operating system. The others will certainly follow and the market in 2011 will be flooded with tablet models.

Apple is not resting on its laurels. Online news services that follow Apple closely are already suggesting that the gadget manufacturer is already working on the second version of the iPad that should be unveiled somewhere in March or April, a year after the first launch. This second version could have a camera, an omission that attracted some criticism and a USB port for easier data transfer and connection to other hardware.

A few days ago Apple rolled-out the iOS 4.2 for iPad, which brought to the tablet the same features already enjoyed on the iPhone 4, such as multi-tasking and the creation of folders. iOS4.3 is expected to be launched soon.

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