French pay less for iPad, Swiss pay more

Analysis reveals iPad price discrepancies as the tablet goes on sale in nine more countries

Apple kicked off pre-orders of the iPad in nine countries today, revealing pricing that gives French buyers a break but makes Swiss customers dig deep into their pockets.

As promised, Apple today began taking orders for the iPad in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, Switzerland and the U.K., with delivery slated for May 28.

Prices vary widely due to taxes that in some countries must be included in advertisements or cost quotes. In Europe, for instance, the VAT (value added tax) consumption tax must be included in the advertised price.

Computerworld analyzed the prices of the six iPad models in the nine countries and found that once included taxes were stripped away, French customers paid the least while Swiss consumers paid the most.

In France, where a 19.6% VAT (dubbed TVA, for taxe sur la valeur ajoutee) is included in the prices, customers pay from [euro]499 for a 16GB WiFi-only iPad to [euro]799 for a 64GB 3G model. When the TVA is excluded and the current euro-to-dollar exchange rate is calculated, French buyers pay between $12.37 and $17.52 more for the WiFi-only iPad, but actually between $10.20 and $15.15 less in U.S. dollars for the 3G tablet.

Like their French neighbors, Italian consumers pay less in U.S. dollars for the iPad 3G than do American buyers when taxes are excluded. However, Italians pay between $13.33 and $18.68 more for the WiFi models.

Swiss customers pay the most of any of the nine countries for the right to order an iPad, according to the analysis. After the mountainous country's 7.6% tax is ignored, Swiss buyers pay as much as $49.65 more for a WiFi-only iPad, and as much as $44.68 more for a 3G tablet.

Canadians pay the second-highest iPad "surcharge" of any of the nine nations' consumers. With the current exchange rate, Canadian prices for the iPad range from $29.15 to $56.47 more in U.S. dollars than American prices. Canada's GST (Goods and Services Tax) is typically not included in advertised prices, just as U.S. state and municipality sales taxes are not part of posted prices.

Even in countries where consumers pay more than their U.S. counterparts, some iPad models are better deals than others. In Germany, for example, the 16GB and 32GB iPad 3G tablets cost $10.58 and $7.34 less than in the U.S. once the exchange rate is factored in and the 19% tax is factored out.

In April, Apple announced that it would delay the international introduction of the iPad to the end of May, a month-long push-back that most analysts interpreted as a sign that the company was having trouble meeting demand in the U.S., and needed more time to fill the pipeline before launch.

During a conference call with Wall Street analysts three weeks ago, Apple implicitly acknowledged the shortages when executives said the company was adding production to better match demand.

Apple has claimed it sold a million iPads in the U.S. in the first four weeks of availability.

Global iPad prices
Compared to prices in the U.S., French consumers pay the smallest iPad "surcharge," Swiss customers the largest.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@ix.netcom.com.

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