Apple on Friday officially launches its iPad in China -- a solid business move, analysts say, even though Chinese customers have been able to buy the tablet computer on the grey market for months.
Apple stores in Beijing and Shanghai as well as authorised retailers around the country will begin offering the Wi-Fi model of the touchscreen device, the US high-tech giant said in a statement this week.
The 16-gigabyte version of the iPad will cost 3,988 yuan (590 dollars) with the 32GB model selling for 4,788 yuan and the 64GB version for 5,588 yuan, Apple said.
The Californian manufacturer did not say when the 3G-equipped version will go on sale in the huge Asian market.
At Apple's flagship store in Beijing, customers began queuing up on Tuesday to ensure they got their hands on the popular gadget when the store opens its doors at 8:00 am (0000 GMT) Friday, state media reported.
Han Ziwen, who was one of those camped outside the store, said he planned to buy two iPads, the Global Times reported.
While the iPad has been available in China's grey market for several months, Han said he preferred to buy one from an authorised seller.
China's unofficial market in Apple products has developed for years, primarily to satisfy demand for the iPhone, which only officially went on sale in China last October -- more than two years after its US launch.
Analysts said they expected to see strong demand for the iPad.
"There's a growing number of Apple fans in China who have proven their interest in the iPod and the iPhone and based on that demand, the iPad will do well here," said Ted Dean, managing director of technology consultancy firm BDA China.
Apple has already released the iPad in more than a dozen countries. It went on sale in the United States on April 3 and Apple sold more than three million units in the first 80 days.
After the China launch, Apple said it plans to roll-out the iPad to "many more countries later this year".
Wait times for the device have stretched into weeks in the United States, but Apple last week promised that orders would ship within 24 hours, in a sign that supply of the devices was catching up with demand.
The iPad allows users to watch video, listen to music, play games, surf the Web or read electronic books. In the United States, the cheapest model costs 499 dollars while the top version is priced at 829 dollars.