App Industry Roundup: iPad sales dazzle abroad while Flash debate heats up in U.S.

by Eric Benderoff

As if there was any doubt, the iPad's debut across the globe drew fans and media attention familiar to the U.S. Also in this App Industry Roundup, sales of Wired magazine's new app may make media companies rethink their Flash stance.

If you're familiar with Apple frenzy, then you've seen this picture before. Apple fans lined up (or queued, if you prefer) outside Apple retail outlets in London, Tokyo, Sydney and elsewhere worldwide as the iPad went on sale outside of the United States. In all, the iPad debuted in 9 countries on Friday.

Customers slept outside of stores overnight, media crews filmed it all, and fun was generally had by all. Except those who didn't get to buy an iPad because it appears to be as popular abroad as in the U.S. -- with many stores running low on stock.

Stephen Fry -- a Twitter celebrity, according to the Telegragh, was ''enormously excited'' to be among the first to buy an iPad at the London store, just past 8 a.m.

''Just to see this is fantastic. It is a phenomenal event. There's never been anything like it," he told the paper. ''To say I was here is rather a nice feeling. If I was a music fan, it would be like the launch of a Lady GaGa album in the US record store - it's a momentous occasion.'' 

Perhaps Lady GaGa will join Steve Jobs onstage at the upcoming Worldwide Developer Conference. (Actually, she is. I've talked to confidential sources at Apple and in GaGa's posse, who confirmed the event. You watch. She's going to break through a giant iPad on stage while performing "Poker Face," perhaps to illustrate how cool it would be if the iPad came in 3D versions. OK, that last part was wishful thinking. GaGa will perform "Just Dance.")

In Japan, the iPad frenzy may have been even more ferocious, as fans who had reserved an iPad -- meaning they knew they were getting one even if units sold out -- waited in long lines because they were so anxious to own the Apple touchscreen.

Of course, as the Wall Street Journal points out, the irony is that the gadget-obsessed Japanese are craving a device not made in Japan. Once the world's tech manufacturing power, Japan has fallen behind rivals such as South Korea and the U.S. The fact that the iPad is so popular in Japan appears unusual because Japanese consumers tend to prefer gadgets that come with thick manuals, whereas everyone else in the world prefer devices that are almost intuitive, the paper writes. That preference has not helped global sales of once mighty Japanese electronic sales.

If the iPad is an indication, the Japanese are changing there preferences.

Flash dance not over, media execs say

The Flash battle has reached a new level this week, as publishers have made it clear that the want to use Adobe's software on Apple's products.

According to a report in the New York Post, "several large media companies, including Time Warner and NBC Universal, told Apple they won't retool their extensive video libraries to accommodate the iPad, arguing that such a reformatting would be expensive and not worth it because Flash dominates the Web."

The TV execs claim that with new tablet products coming soon from other manufacturers, and plans for Google TV on the way, it won't be necessary to follow the laws Steve Jobs creates.

Whether it is a bluff or just blather, the media companies may want to remain flexible on this issue.

Why? Because Wired Magazine, which reformulated a version of Flash to work on the iPad after Jobs declared it won't be appearing on his iThings, sold 24,000 copies of the app in its first 24 hours after being available. The app costs $4.99, the same price as Wired on the newsstand. For the app, that's just shy of $120,000 in one-day sales. Not a bad day for Apple, Adobe or Wired. 

That sales figure is most likely related to curiosity more than anything else, but it clearly exceeded one estimate and I'm pretty sure other media companies noticed.