Apple iPad Prices Not Created Equal, Depending on Country

Apple's iPad boasts a higher upfront sticker price in some countries than others, thanks to local taxes. That revelation comes as Apple prepares to debut the tablet PC in nine international markets on May 28, including Australia, Japan, Spain and the U.K. In response to an irate U.K. fan, Apple CEO Steve Jobs wrote that U.K. prices include a value-added tax not present for U.S. purchasers. Apple plans to roll out the iPad, which sold 1 million units in the U.S. within a month of its April 3 release, to additional international markets in July.

Jet-setting iPad buyers beware: Where you purchase the device could determine how much cold, hard cash you plunk down for the privilege. Thanks to those pesky little things called local taxes, the iPad's upfront sticker cost ends up being higher in some countries than in others-something with the potential to throw, say, a British Apple-phile into a minor rage.

That British example may be particularly apt, given that the 16GB, WiFi-only version of the iPad costs 429 pounds sterling on Apple's U.K. site, while the 64GB, 3G-enabled version retails for 699 pounds sterling. That translates into $637 for the 16GB, WiFi-only version, and $1,038 for the 64GB, 3G-enabled version-or a $138 and $209 premium over those versions' retail price in the U.S. store.

The price differential extends to the other side of the Atlantic, where in Canada the 16GB, WiFi-only iPad retails for $549 in Canadian dollars, or U.S. $536. The 64GB, 3G-enabled version costs $879, or $858. That represents a cross-border premium for both models, which retail for a respective $499 and $829 in the United States.

According to a May 9 posting on the Apple-centric blog 9to5mac, one U.K. customer was supposedly incensed enough over the price differential to send Apple CEO Steve Jobs an e-mail: "What were sales dept thinking when they agreed to this price? It's like leeching blood out of our body."

Jobs allegedly replied via a curt e-mail from his iPhone: "Please educate yourself. UK prices must by law include VAT [Value Added Tax], which is around 18 percent. U.S. prices do not include tax."

Countries in the European Union, thanks to different tax codes, offer slight differentials in pricing across the iPad line. Apple announced on May 7 that the iPad will be available on May 28 in nine international markets: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Preorders for those nine markets began on May 10, for both WiFi-only and 3G-enabled versions of the device.

July will see the iPad arrive in a new round of countries, including Austria, Belgium, Ireland, Luxembourg, Mexico, Singapore, the Netherlands and New Zealand. It will also retail in Hong Kong. Release dates and preordering for nine other countries are apparently in the works.

Total iPad sales topped 1 million units by the end of April, but the early sales success in the United States apparently led to pressures on the supply pipeline and a delay in the international rollout. Apple indicated in a May 7 statement that some 12 million apps and 1.5 million ebooks have been downloaded by iPad owners.

Those numbers have led to optimistic projections on the part of some industry watchers. Broadpoint AmTech analyst Brian Marshall recently increased his calendar year 2010 revenue estimates for Apple from $57.9 billion to $62.6 billion, writing: "Once again, we highlight our view that Apple remains the best technology company on the planet with numerous catalysts on the horizon-e.g., international iPhone ramp, iPad ramp, emerging recurring revenue stream, etc.-and no business model issues."