If you live in the Middle East and happen to have accumulated as many air miles as you would get on a trip to the Moon, you could be in line to claim an iPad before anyone else on Earth. For the special offer of 270,000 air miles - 31,000 miles more than the distance between Earth and the Moon - the latest gadget from Apple could be yours as early as April 2, one day before the device is available in the US.
"We're a rewards programme, so we want to be the first to market on products like this," said Fiona Leslie, the regional marketing director for Air Miles Middle East. "It's in line with our corporate values." Typically, participating businesses award one or two air miles for each dirham spent, although promotions could increase that reward substantially. Assuming that a shopper receives two air miles for every dirham spent, one would have to spend Dh135,000 (US$36,754) to get a free iPad.
For those who are a bit short on miles, the device will also be available for 50,000 air miles and a payment of Dh1,960. Apple pushed the US launch of the iPad - a touchscreen, mobile tablet that can surf the Web - to April 3. A 16-gigabyte Wi-Fi-only version, the same model that Air Miles will make available, will be sold for $499. News of the launch date sent Apple's stock to an all-time high of $218.95 on the NASDAQ index in New York.
Steve Jobs, the chief executive of Apple, unveiled the iPad in January, but the company did not announce when it would be available internationally until Friday, when it said the device would go on sale in late April in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, Switzerland and the UK. It is not known when the iPad will be available in the UAE. Etisalat, the UAE telecommunications operator, held talks with Apple's iPad distribution team last week in London, but no official UAE launch date was set, said Essa al Haddad, the group chief marketing officer for Etisalat.
Mr al Haddad said earlier that he wanted Etisalat to be among the first operators in the world to offer the mobile broadband version of the iPad and planned to make it available by this summer. But local fans of Apple gadgets may need to act fast to get in on the Air Miles promotion. About half of the initial shipment of 60 iPad's has been reserved, and the rest are expected to go soon, Ms Leslie said.