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Potential mainland customers wait for release of product with excitement
Liu Bijie, a student in Fujian province, managed to drag himself out of bed at 2 am to read the latest information about the new iPad, at the same time when Apple Inc was introducing it in the United States.
He decided he would buy one of the devices once it goes on sale on the mainland after learning about how the functions of the latest version of the popular tablet computer have been improved from those found in previous models.
In his eagerness to buy the new device, Liu is similar to many other Chinese who are alert to present trends and know something about technology; he pays both attention and money to Apple.
"Although the new iPad's functions are not a big surprise to me, they are still satisfactory enough, " Liu said.
Apple will start selling the new iPad on March 16 in more than 10 countries and regions, including Hong Kong. It's not known, though, when it will be officially offered on the mainland.
Before Liu's desire to have the new iPad can give a boost to Apple's revenue, the iPad 2, an older version of the tablet computer introduced about a year ago, may become even more popular than it already is.
The price of iPad 2s decreased significantly in the Chinese market after the product's successor was introduced on Wednesday. A 16 gigabyte iPad 2 with the ability to connect to WiFi networks now costs 2,988 yuan ($472.9), down from its previous price of 3,688 yuan.
The lower prices have attracted attention from many Apple lovers in China.
An official Apple store on Shanghai's Middle Huaihai Road was crowded on Thursday with people who wanted to know more about the iPad 2. Many of them walked out of the store with one of the devices in their hands. Employees said they have been receiving more orders for the devices than usual.
"We do not know when the new version will be released in the mainland," said Zhang Qing, a white-collar worker in Shanghai who plans to buy an iPad 2.
"And the prices for smuggled products will be high in the first few months after the introduction of the new version (of the device), so it wouldn't be a bad idea to buy an iPad 2 at a lower price."
In Sin Tat Plaza, a large electronics market in Hong Kong, a number of sellers were already allowing customers to order the new iPad, but only at an inflated price. The 16 gigabyte WiFi model of the device was going for as much as HK$5,800 ($747.60) there; the same product was listed as costing HK$3,888 on Apple's official website for the region.
Electronics retailers on the mainland said smuggled products are likely to go on sale by the end of the month, as the tablets come in from countries and regions where the product will be sold soon.
"The price might be 1,000 or 2,000 yuan higher than it was in Hong Kong or the overseas market because of the fees that will be paid to scalpers and the addition of other costs," said Yang Yongping, an electronics retailer in Shanghai.
"It (the lower price of the iPad 2) will lead to a rush to purchase among customers," said Sun Peilin, an analyst with the domestic research company, Analysys International.
"And this will also force other tablet-computer makers to lower the prices of their products."
Apple had 16 percent of its sales in China in its fourth fiscal quarter last year. Tim Cook, chief executive officer, has said that China has become Apple's second-largest market.
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