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Apple puts Japanese iPad 2 launch on ice

Apple will hold off the release of the iPad 2 in Japan in the wake of last week’s devastating earthquakes and tsunami.

The company had planned to start selling the device in Japan on March 25th and has yet to provide a new date for the start of sales. The company has also closed a retail store in the tsunami-damaged city of Sendai along Japan’s northeast Pacific coast.

"We are delaying the launch of the iPad 2 in Japan while the country and our teams focus on the recovery following the recent disaster," Natalie Kerris, an Apple spokeswoman, told AFP. "Our hearts go out to the people in Japan, including our employees and their families, who have been impacted by this tragedy."

The disaster is also affecting the country’s technology industry with many manufacturers shutting operations and halting production. Toshiba Corp. for instance, responsible for the creation of Nand Flash memory chips used in Apple products including the iPad, was forced to close its factories as a result of the damage with no current date for reopening.

Despite the traumatic event, availability of the iPad 2 elsewhere remains unaffected with estimates from Piper Jaffray showing the 9.0 magnitude earthquake will have less than a one per cent impact on sales in the quarter that ends this month and less than three per cent in the June quarter in a worst-case scenario.

Apple launched the iPad 2 in the United States last week to strong demand, with many shops already selling out of the device. Its release in 25 other countries next week is said to still be on track.