Apple Inc said on Friday that U.S. sales of its iPad tablet would kick off on April 3 and international sales would start later in April.

The launch date for iPad model with short-range Wi-Fi wireless links is slightly later than a previously expected late March launch, based on comments at Apple's January 27 unveiling of the device.

Apple said the iPad would go on sale in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, Switzerland and the UK in late April.

Versions of iPad with third-generation (3G) high-speed cellular data links will be available in late April.

The company said that an iBooks application for iPad would be available as a free download on April 3.

Apple shares rose 1.8 percent to $214.40 in early trade on Friday after closing at $210.71 in Thursday's regular Nasdaq session.

(Reporting by Sinead Carew, editing by Gerald E. McCormick)