iPad: Overseas 3G Deals Unclear Until At Least Summertime

Steve Jobs just announced Apple’s new iPad line-up will include a 3G version that will be carried by AT&T (NYSE: T) in the U.S. – but no international deals appear to be in place and would-be owners elsewhere will have to wait a couple of months later.

We hope to have our international deals in place in June/July time – we’re starting on that tomorrow,” Steve Jobs told journalists in San Francisco. “However, all iPad 3G models are unlocked and use new GSM microsims… internationally, if any carriers offer microsims, they’ll just work. We’ll be back this summer with other carriers offering deals internationally.”

This somewhat mimics Google’s Nexus One launch, which debuted earlier in January with a discount on a T-Mobile USA contract but which won’t be available in Europe until Spring – but, unlike Apple (NSDQ: AAPL), at least Google (NSDQ: GOOG) already has one partner carrier lined up, in the shape of Vodafone.

Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN), too, has exhibited a half-assed approach to European roll-out of the Kindle, which will now face a good challenge from iPad everywhere. It’s shipping to the UK from the U.S., priced in dollars, with a U.S. power plug and involving roaming, not domestic, mobile deals. Clearly, Apple has no European carrier partners to announce right now – but if it can get a proper local launch in order, it will pose an even bigger threat to Kindle in Europe than it now will in the States.

Apple may face a challenge convincing carriers to accept iPad’s terms. In the U.S., the 3G versions of the gadget will come with “two awesome plans” ($14.99-a-month for 250Mb of data and $29.99-a-month for unlimited data) – but “there’s no contract, you can cancel any time you want“, Jobs said – a far cry from conventional mobile contracts, which have grown from 12 to 24 months in the last couple of years. And these prices are a hefty discount on the $60-a-month that Jobs said is common to U.S. unlimited-data contracts. Will carriers maintain their own long-term contract structure, or will they switch to month-by-month contracts just to get their hands on the hot new machine?

iPad is coming to the 3G market with iPhone’s exclusive partner, AT&T – but iPhone exclusivity in the UK has now given way to deals with Orange, Vodafone (NYSE: VOD) and even Tesco Mobile. And the delay to the iPads that can take 3G SIM cards doesn’t mean other flavours of the device won’t be available internationally at launch. An alternative version that packs only WiFi looks perfectly sexy; Jobs said there would be “worldwide availability of the WiFi models” “in 60 days“.

3G versions won’t ship at that time even at home in the U.S.: “It will take us probably another 30 days beyond that to get it through the process with the carriers – so in 90 days we’ll be shipping 3G models with the carriers,” Jobs said.

The pricing starts cheap…

— Non-3G models at $499 (£309) for 16Gb, $599 (£371) for 32Gb and $699 (£432) for 64Gb.
— 3G-enabled iPads will be $629 (£389) for 16Gb, $729 (£451) for 32Gb and $829 (£513) for 32Gb.

“We had a very aggressive price goal – we want to put this in the hands of lots of people,” Jobs said. But no international pricing was initially announced and my currency price conversions are likely to end up more expensive upon the eventual European release – all Apple products tend to come at a premium in Europe.

“International pricing and worldwide availability will be announced at a later date,” according to the press release, which Apple only published on its main U.S. site. “iBookstore will be available in the US at launch.”