BARBARA ORTUTAY, ASSOCIATED PRESS
NEW YORK — The much-anticipated iPad tablet computer from Apple Inc. will start hitting U.S. store shelves on April 3, slightly later than originally planned.
When Apple unveiled the touch-screen device Jan. 27, the company said the first iPads would reach the market in "late March" worldwide, not just in the U.S.
Apple did not specify Friday why the tablet is not coming out until April, and Apple spokeswoman Natalie Harrison would not elaborate.
However, Canaccord Adams analyst Peter Misek said this week that Apple might have to delay or limit the size of the launch because of an "unspecified production problem." Misek said Apple's Taiwan-based supplier, Hon Hai Precision, could be facing a production bottleneck or a shortage of components.
Misek said he didn't expect the delay to affect sales of the iPad during Apple's fiscal third quarter, which ends in June. He estimates Apple will sell 550,000 iPads during the period and 1.2 million in fiscal 2010.
The first iPads will connect to Wi-Fi networks only and cost $499, $599 or $699, depending on the data storage capacity. Versions that also can connect to "3G" cellular networks are expected to go on sale in late April for $629, $729 or $829.
U.S. customers will be able to begin placing orders for both models from Apple's Web site beginning on March 12.
All models will be available in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, Switzerland and the U.K. by late April, Apple said. Other countries are expected to get the device later in the year.
Apple says the iPad will include 12 new applications designed especially for the touch-screen device. It will also run "almost all" of the more than 140,000 apps already available for the iPhone and iPod Touch, Apple said. Users will be able to access the applications they bought for those devices through the iPad.