Apple's heavily hyped iPad went on sale today in the United States with excited customers crowding to get their hands on what some see as a major new step in the digital revolution.
The Apple flagship store in New York greeted hundreds of people who had waited since just after dawn with high fives, whooping, and a New Year's Eve-style countdown.
Many of the shoppers were from outside the United States, which is initially the only country to sell the touch-screen tablet, retailing at between $499 and $829.
Adi Thomas, who flew in from Australia, said the iPad was "slim, beautiful."
"I really want to get it home and play with it," Thomas, 38, said.
Dutch IT consultant Hans Schoenmakers, 49, proudly declared himself the first person from the Netherlands to own the shiny gadget.
"It's better than I thought. I will use it for email while on the couch -- and Internet and reading books," he said.
There were scenes of nearly hysterical enthusiasm as dozens of Apple staff in matching blue T-shirts psyched themselves up before opening hour with rhythmic clapping and cheering.
Customers emerged from the glass-roofed store, holding their newly minted toys in front of the television news cameras like trophy winners.
"I'm going to go home and play with iPad, not my girlfriend," announced a young man named Randy.
Apple calls the tablet "revolutionary" and the Wall Street Journal in a sneak preview said the device is a "game changer" that could topple the laptop and "change portable computing profoundly."
Whether reality will match the advertising hype --fuelled by wall-to-wall media coverage of the days leading up to the launch - is the soon-to-be answered question.
Despite the fervent reception at Apple stores, veterans of the original iPhone launch said today's event was relatively subdued. A meagre crowd of only 15 took the ultimate step of camping outside the Manhattan store overnight.
Apple representatives would not comment on how sales were going.
The 24.6 centimetre device allows users to watch video, listen to music, play games, surf the Web or read electronic books.