'Magical' iPad hits stores in the US

Apple's iPad went on sale in the US yesterday, and industry experts say that 7.1 million of the new "tablets" may be sold globally this year, driven by early adopters and users attracted by its touch-screen interface.

The iPad allows users to surf the Web, read e-books, watch videos and play games, and is on sale in shops and websites in the US for $499 (£328). Sales of iPads are expected to double to 14.4 million units next year and to rise to 20.1 million devices in 2012.

The iPad resembles a large iPhone, with a 24.3cm by 18.9cm screen. It was launched to a storm of publicity by the chief executive and chairman of Apple Steve Jobs in January, and industry analysts predict that it will be a commercial success. Mr Jobs said it was their "most advanced technology in a magical and revolutionary device at an unbelievable price".

However, critics point out that the iPad does not support Adobe Flash, lacks a built-in web-camera and won't run more than one application at a time. No official on-sale date for Britain has been announced, though some UK-based businesses are planning to obtain "grey market" examples via US addresses. Apple says it has "no position" on such unofficial imports.