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US punters play hunt the iPad 2 as it sells out

Despite gloomy predictions of short lines and even shorter sales, Apple had a bumper US launch for the iPad 2.

Depending on which anal listing outfit from the long line of financial crystal ball gazers willing to have a stab at the sales figures you are prepared to believe, the Mac maker shifted anywhere between 400,000 and a million of the Second Coming of the iPad in its first weekend on sale.

Even taking the lowest figure anyone is willing to offer, the iPad 2 still shifted substantially more than the 300,000 units of the first iPad shifted on its day of birth, and if current reports are to be believed it could have sold many, many more.

Rumour has it that the online Apple Store, as well as every bricks-and-mortar retailer in the US, had sold pretty much every available iPad 2 by the close of play on Saturday.

And the folks at Apple will be over the moon at one particular statistic gleaned by Gene Munster's team at Piper Jaffray, which sent a team of junior number-crunchers to interrogate the queuing iPad 2 buyers. The company's survey showed that 70 per cent of them were tablet virgins buying an iPad for the first time.

Fears that iPad users would be dumping their original iterations in droves and diluting Apple's new user base seem to have been unfounded.

The iPhone's universally-envied halo effect was also very much in evidence with 100 per cent of the 236 people questioned saying they already owned Apple's ubiquitous smartphone.

Demand for any new Apple product is always distorted with some commenters suggesting that up half of the initial stocks sold will end up in various 'grey markets' around the world, an assumption which is lent some weight by the fact that some dodgy far east outlets are already selling the iPad 2 for up to twice its ticket price.

With shop shelves currently empty, the latest rumour has it that Apple will be opening its own retail outlets an hour early tomorrow morning to allow the second shipment, reportedly being re-stocked as we speak, to get into the hands of eager punters.

From what we have seen of the first batch of reviews, which are little short of glowing even from some tech sites with a traditionally unfriendly attitude to Apple and its reassuringly expensive gadgetry, the iPad 2 will almost certainly continue to break records and make life for the incoming tide of copy-cats and wannabes all the more uncomfortable.

Which is all very good news for Apple, and anyone in America who manages to find an iPad 2, but cold comfort to those of us living in the wider world who will almost certainly have to wait beyond the anticipated March 25th launch date, as the US (and the grey markets its products undoubtedly feed) have their fill.