Apple stores to get iPad within a week

Breaking with tradition, rumour has it that Apple store employees will get hands-on training with the much-anticipated iPad touchscreen computer as early as March 10th.

In the past, the notoriously secretive Californian company has kept its retail minions as much in the dark about new products as it does its adoring public. When the original iPhone launched, most Apple employees got as little as one hour to get to grips with the revolutionary app phone. But it looks like things might be changing.

According to a report on the Examiner - which is apparently supported by comments from an anonymous Apple store manager from Southern California - Apple retail employees will get the chance have a proper fiddle with the new gadget more than two weeks before the rest of the world.

No official release date has been set yet, but the three Wifi version of the iPad are widely predicted to become available on March 26th. 3G-enabled version are set to follow a month later.

Mutterings about production problems and delays almost certainly won't postpone the launch, but you can expect demand to far outstrip supply, and we expect to see long queues of hypothermia-stricken Macolytes camping outside Apple stores for days before the official launch.

The report also says that TV advertising, which is bound to confirm the official launch date, will start as early as March 15th.

Also from the iPad rumour mill, so don't hang us if it turns out to be wide of the mark, is pricing for the Wifi only iPads. According to Geeky Gadgets, the 16GB model will have a £390 price tag, the 32GB will be £440 and the 64GB will set you back £490.

Much has been made of the differential between UK and US pricing but US prices don't include local sales taxes, whilst the UK's include 17.5 per cent VAT.