Starting today at 8 a.m. local time, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is putting the new iPad Air up for sale in 42 different areas. A few areas apparently started after midnight local time as well. This is the first time China was included in the introduction of the new iPad. In fact, the Chinese were able to start buying the tablet before consumers in the U.S. because of the time difference.

iPad Air

Early indications of iPad Air Sales in China

CNET’s Josh Lowensohn reports that in Hong Kong, online sales of the iPad Air sold out after only being available for two hours. Before being listed as sold out, the tablets were listed as having delivery times of one to two weeks.

In the early hours of the launch, Hong Kong was the only location where the iPad Air sold out. Australia, Japan, mainland China and Singapore all listed 24-hour ship times for a longer period of time than Hong Kong did. When I checked Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s site in Australia, it still had a 24-hour ship time for the iPad Air. In the U.S., all models of the iPad Air on Apple’s website had a delivery date of Nov. 4 as of this writing.

Weighing the differences with this iPad launch

Many analysts consider this year’s iPad launch to be the most significant refresh since the original model was introduced. Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Brian White believes this refresh will pull Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) out of the negative tablet sales cycle it has been seeing lately. He suggests that the iPad Air “will reinvigorate the iPad franchise, which saw its first year over year decline in sales during the June quarter when it fell 27%. He expects to see iPad sales turn positive again in the December quarter and possibly climb as much as 21%.

Much has been said about how important the Chinese market is to Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), and it’s easy to see that Apple believes this too. This is the first iPad refresh to include China, and Apple is in need of a shot in the arm there because White reports that white box tablet makers in China have been stealing tablet share there over the last few quarters. He says the other big problem with Apple’s tablet sales in China is that the increase in bigger smartphones is also taking a bite out of iPad sales

Seeing different dynamics for Apple this time

Last year, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) sold 3 million iPads in the first three days of availability. This time around, the dynamics are quite different. White suggests that we may see a similar number of iPads sold this launch weekend, although he notes that this year’s launch weekend is going to be difficult to predict because of the different dynamics.

This time around, there wasn’t a preorder period for the iPad Air. Last year, there was a seven-day preorder period for the new iPad. In addition, this year we have just the one new iPad for sale, while last year both the full-size iPad and the iPad Mini were introduced at the same time. The iPad Mini with Retina display will be coming out sometime this month, although Apple has not provided a specific release date. Supply of the smaller iPad is expected to be very constrained this year.

Another difference is that this year models with both Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi with cellular capabilities will be available in most areas. Last year, the new iPads were only available with Wi-Fi.

White continues to rate Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) as a Buy with a $777 per share price target.