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Thousands queue for iPad 2 across Asia

The iPad 2 went on sale in many countries across Asia and beyond on Friday as Apple's updated gadget enters a market that is becoming ever more crowded with tablet computers.

Apple's original iPad defined the tablet computer market and was swiftly followed by offerings from the tech industry's main players, from Samsung and Dell to BlackBerry maker RIM and Toshiba.

A late arrival to the tablet party was Sony, who only this week announced its own tablets a full year after the original iPad went on sale.

Now Apple is already fighting round two with a lighter, thinner version of their original gadget.

First in line in a queue of around 400 rain-soaked people outside an Apple store in Hong Kong was 16-year-old mainland Chinese student Dandy Weng, who travelled to the city from neighbouring Guangdong province for a device.

"I have waited for over 12 hours and haven't slept in 48 hours - I'm very tired but excited," he told AFP.

"I will be the first in China to have the iPad 2", he said, waving a ticket to back up his claim of being first in line.

"I'm speechless, it's so exciting," he said after purchasing two tablets. "I can't say how happy I am right now."

A long queue snaked around the Apple shop in a major downtown shopping centre with several groups of shoppers loading as many as a dozen iPads onto trolleys.

Shopping mall staff handed out raincoats to soaked Apple fans who had forgotten to bring an umbrella.

"The weather is really terrible, but it's well worth it," Nigel Law, a 19-year-old student, told AFP. "It has been a long time coming - a little rain is nothing."

Those trying to buy an iPad 2 online via Apple's Hong Kong site will have to wait a little longer - all versions of the gadget were already out of stock before midday.

And at an Apple authorised retail shop in Singapore, only 100 devices were available for sale.

"I like the iPad 2 because it is slimmer and nicer," Dennis Seow, who queued up from 7:00 am, told AFP.

The new iPad also hit stores Friday in India, Israel, Macau, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

In South Korea, 100 invited customers lined up from midnight at the central Seoul branch of KT, a local partner for iPhones and iPads.

First in line was student Kim Jung-Yun, 22, who waited more than nine hours to get his hands on one.

Kim slowly unwrapped the box then held his white device at arm's length to take a careful and admiring look.

"I didn't know I would be the first one but it's marvellous and I would like to keep it as a valuable memory," Kim told AFP.

The iPad 2 was launched in Japan on Thursday after a month's delay caused by the devastating quake and tsunami. A Wi-Fi only version of the iPad 2 will be available in China on May 6. It was first released in the United States on March 11.

The California gadget-maker sold 15 million iPads last year following the original device's launch in April, generating $10 billion in revenue.