Hordes greet iPad debut in Tokyo

by Kazuaki Nagata

Apple Inc.’s much-awaited iPad debuted in Japan Friday with hundreds of people lining up for the device and celebrating its arrival at retail stores in Tokyo.

“I’ve been trying various things on iPad, and it really changes your daily lifestyle,” said Softbank Corp. President Masayoshi Son during the iPad launch at Softbank Mobile’s store in Tokyo’s Omotesando district.

Softbank, the exclusive provider of the iPhone in Japan, will offer a wireless subscriber identity module card for the iPad in addition to selling the devices at its stores.

At around 8 a.m., when the sales began, about 250 to 300 people, including those who camped out, had lined up in Omotesando to get the iPad, a tablet computer with a 9.7-inch touch screen.

According to some media reports, about 1,200 people showed up at Apple’s store in the Ginza shopping district.

IPad users can access the Internet, read newspapers and e-books, view photos and watch movies at the touch of a finger.

In addition to hundreds of thousands of iPhone applications, many new exclusive applications are available.

Kazuki Miura, a 38-year-old freelance writer for IT-related media, was first in line in Omotesando and said he came to the store around 6 p.m. Thursday, while wearing a handmade iPad board on his forehead.

“I wanted to get it as soon as possible,” he said, adding he plans to download lots of applications to see what the device can do. “I have children, so I’d like to get applications that they can enjoy and also ones useful for my work.”

The price of the iPad ranges from ¥48,800 to ¥81,800, depending on the storage and whether it can use 3G/Wi-Fi network or standard Wi-Fi only.

The iPad’s debut is not only creating an impact with consumers, but also with Japanese business operators, especially providers of wireless Internet services.

The iPads sold in Japan will only accept Softbank’s SIM cards, meaning consumers cannot use other wireless networks.

In response, other network operators have began introducing small mobile routers that offer iPad users a greater choice of 3G wireless networks.