China's iPad look-alikes brace for the real thing

The P88 was launched in August. (AFP)

Apple's iPad has won rave early reviews but its US launch is not welcome news for the Chinese maker of a similar-looking device that has already been on sale for nearly eight months.

Wu Xiaolong, the General Manager of Shenzhen Great Loong Brother Industrial said the company had already lost a major order for its iPad-like touchscreen "P88", which was launched in August, months before Apple's product.

"Our products are more expensive than theirs. There had been a Canadian university planning to buy our tablet PCs for their students, but they cancelled the order to shift to the iPad," said Wu.

The company made headlines in January when it suggested Apple's iPad looked like a copy of the P88, which was on show last year at the Internationale Funkausstellung consumer electronics fair in Berlin.

Wu declined to give sales figures for the P88, which sells for about $569 (Dh2,088) – compared to the iPad's $499 entry-level price – but said the company in southern China was producing 3,000 units a day.

"We sold to a number of overseas markets in Europe and North America, including Germany, the UK, France and Canada. We also have distributors in many provinces in China, including Shanghai," he said.

However, there was no sign of the P88 or other iPad clones at the four-floor CyberMart in downtown Shanghai on Friday, although plenty of cloned iPods and other products were on display.

Shanzai.com, which tracks China's electronics industry, said dozens of iPad clones have been "available on the streets of Shenzhen for months".

Apple has yet to announce a launch date for the iPad in China, but Huang Ting, who operates one of CyberMart's more than 100 stalls, said confidently that she expected to be selling the devices around April 10.

"We have to send someone to line up and buy them in the US and then bring them back to China. The 16GB iPad will sell for around Y5,000 (Dh2,679)," she said from behind a counter showcasing rows of iPhones and iPods.

Eager customers were paying Y500 as deposit, she said. "We already have quite a few bookings," Huang said.

China's grey market for Apple products developed to meet demand from consumers eager to get their hands on iPhones, which officially only went on sale in China in October – more than two years after it was launched in the US.

 

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