Apple announces iPad availability: April 3

Apple announced this morning that the iPad will be available in the US Saturday, April 3 for Wi-Fi models and late April for Wi-Fi + 3G models.

April 3! That's almost a month away! You're killing me, Apple!

US customers can pre-order both models starting in a week, Friday, March 12, from Apple's online store. Customers who pre-order can pick up the devices April 3 at an Apple retail store.

I'm pretty sure that in the past, you've been able to pre-order hot Apple devices online and have them delivered on the day the product became available. Am I remembering that incorrectly? Is Apple not doing that this year with the iPad? That's the way I'd like to go. I've camped out for Apple products twice before, in 2007 for the original iPhone and 2008 for the 3G. It was fun, but I've done it now and I'm not eager to do it again.

The starting price is $499 for the Wi-Fi model for 16 GB, $599 for 32 GB, and $699 for 64 GB. Wi-Fi + 3G models will be $629 for 16 GB, $729 for 32 GB and $829 for 64 GB.

Both models will be available in late April in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, Switzerland and the UK. International pricing will be announced in April. iPad will ship in additional countries later this year.

Interestingly, the iBooks app for the iPad won't be factory-installed on the device. It will be available as a free download from the App Store in the US on April 3, with additional countries added later this year. I wonder why they're doing it that way, rather than just pre-installing the app? There has been a great deal of speculation that the iPad plus iBooks will be a Kindle-killer (here's my opinion), if Apple views iBooks as strategic, why wouldn't they pre-install it on the iPad?

If you can't wait until April 3 to get your hands on an iPad, there are ways to get one earlier.

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