The new iPad went on sale on March 16 with Apple fans lining up from Sydney to San Francisco to snap up the latest model of the hot-selling tablet computer.

Close to 1,000 people lined up outside Apple's flagship store in Manhattan, but the iPad arrival drew a muted response in Europe and smaller crowds than previous launches in Asia for a device short on new technology.

The first person to come bounding out of the New York store's futuristic glass entrance clutching a new iPad was Brazilian Eric Ladd.

"I'm really excited to see it," Ladd said. "I flew all the way from Brazil."

Ladd, 38, said he'd waited 30 hours in line. But "people in Brazil are going to wait three or four months for it, so I'm going to be one of the first ones."

Among the iPad buyers camping outside a Los Angeles store was Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, who has made it a tradition to join crowds waiting to purchase the latest Apple products.

While some fans waited patiently outside U.S. stores, a Florida couple was arrested for allegedly trying to steal them from a Best Buy store.

Detective Geoffrey Fahringer told the Orlando Sentinel that Jasmin Roman, 24, who works at the Best Buy, and her boyfriend, Juan Carlos Ortiz Valez, 26, who was fired from the store, planned to hold up the store at gunpoint.

"They watched too many movies," Fahringer said after deputies confiscated two handguns, eight handcuffs, chains, a lock, masks, gloves, binoculars, mace and a knife from the couple.

Fans in Sydney, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore, Frankfurt and London praised the iPad's improved display, and did not seem concerned that its faster 4G LTE connection would be largely unavailable outside North America.

Apple's online shop in the United States quickly sold out of iPads for delivery on Friday and began telling buyers they will have to wait several weeks for one.

Despite the anticipation, the excitement surrounding earlier releases was largely absent, with the crush seen in Hong Kong for the iPhone 4S reduced to a fraction and Tokyo's long line all but gone by mid-morning.

Apple shares fell 1.07 percent at $579.32 in early Wall Street trade after briefly topping $600 Thursday.

The New York store opened after a loud employee pep rally. The first customers were greeted as heroes with high fives, fist pumping and whoops and cheers.

A small group protesting working conditions in the Chinese factories where the gleaming gadgets are made was the only dampener on the scene.

Charlene Caruthers, from the campaign by Change.org, said long hours, few breaks, poor safety supervision and constant, repetitive movements endangered workers' use of their hands.

"No one should have to work being afraid of losing their limbs," she said.

The new iPad is being released in Australia, the United States, France, Canada, Germany, Japan, Singapore, Switzerland, Britain and Hong Kong on Friday and will go on sale in another two dozen countries on March 23.

The latest version has a more powerful processor and a screen resolution called retina display which Apple says is the sharpest ever on a mobile device.

Australia was the first place to get the new device -- for which Apple has abandoned its numbering system, calling it the "new iPad" instead of "iPad 3."

Several hundred people gathered outside the company's Sydney store but the hype was not on the scale seen for the iPad 2, when people began camping out up to four days before.

In London, several hundred people waited outside Europe's largest Apple store but the line was also smaller than for previous launches.

Around 50 people lined up in Tokyo. Ryo Takahashi, 25, who arrived at the store wearing a headband saying "I am an iPad samurai!" said the new retina display was a good enough reason to queue up.

At the plush Hong Kong Apple store, which has seen chaotic scenes for previous product releases, around 200 buyers lined up outside.

The launch of the iPhone 4S in November saw more than 1,500 fans camping outside the Hong Kong store for days.

Pranabesh Nath, research manager with Frost and Sullivan consultancy, said Apple could expect to sell up to 70 million new iPads.

While the almost cult-like status of Apple shows no signs of waning among consumers, Nath suggested that with Apple co-founder Steve Jobs now dead the momentum could start to taper off.

Jobs, the mind behind the iPod, iPad and iPhone, died in October after battling pancreatic cancer.

Copyright 2012, Agence France-Presse


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