Huge crowds have turned out to purchase an iPad in European territories. The Apple device went on sale today (May 28) in nine countries, following its U.S. launch on April 3.

The international launch in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, Switzerland and the U.K. was delayed by a month as a result of strong demand for the product in the U.S.

Hundreds gathered outside the flagship Apple store in London's Regent St. for the 8am opening. Actor, author and Apple fan Stephen Fry was among the crowd.

U.K. prices for the iPad began at £429 ($624) compared to $499 in the U.S.

Online pre-orders have been open since May 10 for international customers. But Apple estimates shipping dates of mid-June for recent orders. It is also likely that the first batch of stock in the U.K. will run out by the weekend.

Retailer Best Buy said it was restricting sales at its two British outlets to one iPad per household.

In Germany, customers waited up to four hours in 100 meter queues in major cities including Berlin, Frankfurt, Hamburg and Munich.

At the Apple Store in Munich, Apple employees served the waiting crowd with water. According to the Munich police there were excitable scenes when the sale started. Whenever a customer bought an iPad, he passed a line of Apple employees who applauded the customers.

In Berlin, all was more civilized and many of the customers had already pre-ordered the iPads.

"There is a big interest in Germany," said Apple spokesman Georg Albrecht in Munich.

Gerrit Urban, managing director of the Hamburg-based Apple stockist Firstbite, added: "We have thousands of pre-orders of our clients and have already ordered thousands with Apple. We are practically sold out within the first five minutes after we have opened the shop."

According to sources, Apple expects German sales of about 500,000 in 2010.

There were also crowds at stores in Australia and Japan, which got the iPad earlier than other territories because of the time difference. And some Spanish stores sold out by the morning the iPad went on sale there.

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