Review: iPad

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Date: Monday, April 5th, 2010, 04:19
Category: News, Review

By Michael DeWalt

Arrival and Unpacking:
At about 10 AM Saturday morning, Santa, otherwise known as the UPS guy, rang the doorbell. The anticipation was intense, but it’s here — the iPad has landed. To be more specific, an iPad Wi-Fi 64GB is now in hand. It took willpower not to just rip into the box, but I held back and took a few photos of the unveiling.

The picture above is the package as it was delivered. After the wait and all the hype it seemed…well…a little less grand than I’d envisioned.

Inside, the packaging was simple and efficient with recyclable cardboard packaging. All’s well so far.

Inside the box there’s not much – the iPad, a one page document that basically just points out what the buttons do, and underneath that rests the 10W power adapter and sync cable. That’s it. If you’re looking for ear buds, stop, they’re not included.

Before turning it on I decided to plug it in, just for good measure. As it turns out that was a waste of time, it was fully charged out of the box. For a size reference, it’s parked next to a MacBook Air.

First Impressions:
Mobility and weight are important as I spend about 30% of my time on the road, or more accurately, on airplanes. So, I was pleasantly surprised at how light it felt when I picked it up for the first time. It’s subjective I know, but to me it felt “light”. At a pound and a half it’s about half the weight of the MacBook Air, but a little more than double the weight of my first generation Kindle.

Durability is high on my list of desirable attributes, but, like all new expensive electronic gadgets, I’ll treat it like a newborn baby for the first week or two. I babied the Kindle for a while … but now it gets tossed around and travels without a cover. The iPad feels more substantial than the Kindle, and not just because it’s bigger. Apple knows how to build a device that not only looks great, but oozes quality.

The First Sync:
Before turning it on I plugged it into a Mac Pro and fired up iTunes. Make sure you’re using iTunes 9.1, you’ll need it to sync. Below are several screen shots that show registration and syncing. If you’ve ever set up an iPod or iPhone the process will be very familiar.




Using the iPad:
iPad navigation is almost identically to the iPod Touch and iPhone, and that’s not surprising since it uses the iPhone OS. It’s intuitive and easy to navigate.

Keyboard and Controls:
The touch screen keyboard is available in both portrait and landscape modes. If you have more than an ID and password to type you’ll appreciate the added size of the keyboard in landscape mode. Most people will find that it works just fine for a device like this. I found it to be accurate and relatively speedy, even with my chunky fingers. The keyboard makes a satisfying “click” through the speaker with each key press, though you can turn the click off if you want. Typing an email, note, or web address was absolutely no problem. However, if you’re a budding writer working on your novel, you probably don’t want to do it on an iPad unless you spring for the external keyboard.

In terms of buttons and switches, there aren’t many. It’s a super-slick package with the “Home” button near the dock port, an on/off button on the top, a button to lock out rotation, and a volume toggle. That’s it.

Battery Life:
After two days of significant use I think it’s safe to say that, in normal use the battery shouldn’t be a concern. The design theory seems to have been “use it all day on a full charge, plug it in before you go to bed, then do it all over again the next day.” I had it on for about six hours on Saturday and the indicator still said over 50%. Yes, I know that’s not as great as a Kindle, buy hey, so what. If I can go full out all day that’s fine, I don’t mind charging it overnight.

Web Browsing and Email:
If you’ve used Safari on a Mac, PC, or iPhone you’ll be right at home. You can open multiple windows and jump between them, just like the iPhone. During the initial set up and registration process I turned on the MobileMe sync and my email, contacts, calendar, and bookmarks all synced flawlessly. One piece of advice on bookmarks … using the bookmark bar really speeds browsing. The screen is big enough to give up a little real estate for it. In general, the web browsing experience is much more like using a laptop than an iPhone. However, as widely reported, Adobe Flash is a no-go. That makes many sites less rich and some downright unusable.

Mail was a pleasant surprise and for whatever reason, using my finger in place of the mouse seemed more “right” than with any other app, except maybe “Photos”. Mail layout is simple and intuitive. One problem though is printing … it doesn’t. Sure, you can pick up a third party app and get the job done, but there’s no built-in ability to print anything

In summary, Safari and Mail are easy and intuitive … except no Flash in Safari, less than perfect attachment options in Mail, and no printing ability.

Media – Video and Music:
Media is where the iPad really shines. Movies look stunning – a rich crisp screen and plenty of processor power for smooth playback. A few of my recent Blu-ray movie purchases have included digital copies (Zombieland and Sherlock Holmes), and they not only look great, they have chapters with thumbnails … like movies downloaded from the iTunes Movie Store. Music Videos and TV shows look great as well. Movie and TV downloads from the iTunes store worked fine and transferred to my Mac Pro when I synced the iPad.

Since the iPad is essentially a mobile device you’ll often be around other people when you use it – on the train, airplanes, in the library, waiting rooms, airports, etc. So, you’ll probably use ear buds or headphones to listen. That said, the built-in speaker develops enough volume that it’s a usable option. If I’m in a hotel room and want to watch a TV show or movie I’d be happy to prop it up and jack up the speaker volume. It’s not what you’d call hi-fi quality, but it’s definitely usable.

Using the iPod app was easy. In particular, I like the “Songs, Artists, Albums, Genres, Composers” bar at the bottom of the screen which makes it easy to browse your music collection. One minor complaint though, when you browse by genre you get a list of all the songs in that genre. It would have been better to group them by artist or album within genre.

Once you get a song playing you get album artwork filling the screen, and it looks great. While you’re playing music can hit the home button, fire up a different app, and music will continue to play while you’re checking email or playing a killer game of solitaire.

Photo Browsing:
The Photo app syncs with either your iPhoto library or a folder of pictures. If you sync with iPhoto you can do it all or just the albums, events or faces you want. I synced about 2,000 photos in two dozen albums and it all worked fine.

Viewing your pictures couldn’t be easier. When you open the Photo app it shows your albums as stacks of photos. Tap one and thumbnails appear. Tap a thumbnail and the picture opens. You can flick through the pictures like on the iPhone or iPod Touch.

You can zoom and shrink with the pinch and expand gesture, you can run a slideshow, email pictures, and copy pictures. There aren’t any editing tools built in, but hey, this is a viewer and a darned good one.

iBooks and the Bookstore … and the Kindle App:
I’m a big fan of the Kindle. I’ve downloaded and read about 50 books on my first generation Kindle. Sure it has its quirks, but it’s been a great reader. I’m giving to my daughter.

The Kindle app for the iPad is a better experience than reading Kindle books on the Kindle itself. The books in your Kindle library show up with colorful covers, it’s fast, and the screen is crisp and easy to read. With the Kindle app I was able to log into my account, select the books I wanted moved to the iPad, and I ordered a new book (from the Amazon Website). All in all it was easy to get all of my current Kindle content on the iPad.

The iBooks app is excellent. You can read one page at a time in portrait mode or two pages at a time in landscape. You can go to the table of contents and jump to a chapter, you can change the font and font size. With illustrations and photos in color and the bigger screen this will definitely be a platform for textbooks. What’s currently missing though, is an ability to annotate and highlight.

The bookstore has over 50,000 titles at introduction, but is way behind Amazon. I’m sure Apple’s store will increase, and that’ll be great, but the iPad isn’t closed. If I can’t find what I want I can always shop the Kindle store and use the Kindle app.

A lot’s been written about the E ink screen versus the iPad’s LED-backlit glossy screen. Yes, if you want to read in the bright sunshine the LED screen will be a problem. That said, I’ve never found myself reading that way. For me the problem has been just the opposite. I frequently read in low light situations… in bed and on a dim evening flight. I think the bright screen will be just fine. I’ve done three separate one-hour book-reading sessions so far and not experienced any noticeable eye strain. It is heavier though, and I find myself changing hands often.

Bottom line… it’s a good book reader and my daughter will be the proud owner of a used Kindle.

Using the iPad for business – Pages, Numbers, and Keynote:
So far so good … the iPad is great for movies, music, and books, and it’s a decent platform for browsing the web and using email. Unfortunately, it falls a bit short as a business tool.

What I wanted to see was relatively modest:
1. Ability to read and write Microsoft Office formats,
2. Reasonable formatting compatibility,
3. Ease of use … the ability to modify existing documents and create relatively basic documents, spreadsheets, and presentations on the go, and
4. Conveniently get files on and off the iPad to share.

So, how does it perform? It’s easy to create new documents, spreadsheets, and presentations – much easier and more usable than I expected. There are several built in templates that make it easy to get quick professional looking work done.

It’ll read Word, Excel, and PowerPoint formats, and in my tests it did a decent (but not perfect) job of formatting. It’ll also save your word processing documents in Microsoft Word format. What it absolutely does not do is save in Excel and PowerPoint formats. That’s a problem for me. When I’m on the road I mostly read and review material that’s emailed to me, but once in a while I need to edit or create a spreadsheet or presentation and send it back to the office. Yes, you can email it as a PDF or iWork format … but I work in a Windows world and Microsoft Office compatibility is a must. This is a serious flaw in Numbers and Keynote and it’ll need to be addressed either by Apple or an easy to use third party app.

Another problem is the ability to get work to and from your iPad. There are two options, email or syncing with iTunes on your computer. That’s a real pain. A USB port would have been good. 95% of the time I’ll be able to travel with the iPad and leave my laptop and Kindle at home… but better integration with MS Office and a USB port would have really sealed the deal.

The Bottom Line:
The iPad is without a doubt a ground breaking device, is crazy good at what it does best, but has its flaws, particularly as a business tool.

Pros – Instant on (no time consuming boot up), large vibrant screen for such a portable device, great battery life, good web and email experience, great video & music player, usable built in speaker, very good book reader (including my already purchased Kindle library), great build quality, and large and growing selection of apps.

Cons – Only partially file compatibility with Microsoft Office, limited ability to get files on and off, limited ability to add multiple attachments to email, and no built in ability to print. Also, the glossy screen looks fantastic, but is highly prone to smudgy fingerprints.

Debatable – The on screen keyboard is good, but it’s still not like a real keyboard. Love for the keyboard will likely be inversely proportional to the amount of typing being done.

Summary:
After a few days of heavy use and review am I happy I bought an iPad? Absolutely. For at least the next three months I’ll be an early adopting geek rock star. It’ll be the focus of attention at meetings when I pop it out to take notes, people will stop and stare when I’m reading an ibook on the train, and all the people watching movies on their Nano at 35,000 feet will bow down in awe. So, yes, I’m very happy with it. However, it wants to be connected at all times. I’m already feeling a need for 3G.

iFixIt performs complete iPad teardown, finds extended battery, other goodies

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Date: Monday, April 5th, 2010, 04:34
Category: iPad, photos

The moment they got their mitts on one, the cool cats at iFixIt performed a complete teardown on Apple’s new iPad tablet to look at its components.

Per AppleInsider, the company’s teardown reveals that the iPad’s battery has 5.5 times the capacity of the iPhone. It’s actually two battery packs wired in parallel, the company reports, providing a total of 24.8 Watt-hours. “In contrast,” the report notes, “the iPhone 3GS has a 4.51 watt-hour battery and the MacBook Air has a 40 watt-hour battery.”

On average, the device “sips just 2.5 Watts. That’s 1/5 the power of a compact fluorescent bulb,” the report states. Even so, the larger battery demands more charging power than standard USB ports provide. It needs its included 10 watt charger, and won’t charge while syncing with a standard USB-equipped Mac or PC.

“The A4 is a Package-on-Package (PoP), with at least three layers of circuitry layered on top of each other,” the site notes. Apple’s “A4 is packaged just like the iPhone processors, microprocessor in one package and two memory modules in the other package. They’re all sandwiched together in a very nice and thin PoP.

“The iPad RAM is inside the A4 processor package. Confirming this took quite a bit of sleuthing: we had to partner with Chipworks to X-ray the processor. The X-ray revealed two layers of RAM. In addition to the ARM processor, the A4 package contains two stacked Samsung dies. We will be releasing a detailed analysis of the A4 in conjunction with Chipworks in a few days.”

The A4 contains “256MB of memory per die, for 512 MB total” the company’s teardown notes. That’s twice the system RAM of last year’s iPhone 3GS and third generation iPod touch.

Update: iFixit updated their report to note that the iPad actually incorporates the same 256MB of system RAM as the iPhone 3GS.

Physical features:
“The rear case is machined from a single billet of aluminum, increasing weight but greatly improving the rigidity of the device,” iFixIt reports, adding that “the empty void in the upper right corner [of the WiFi-only model] is where the cellular communications board would go in the 3G iPad.”

The iPad’s “touch circuit design is more similar to the old 2G and early 3G iPhones than the current 3GS,” the teardown revealed. “Chipworks informed us that ‘there is so much room in the iPad that Apple didn’t need to use small chips, just the right ones and cheap ones.’”

Additionally, the rumored slot that was once imagined to be for a camera “is actually taken up by the ambient light sensor.” iFixIt also noted that the iPad’s “glass panel is quite thick: about 1.18 mm, compared to the iPhone’s 1.02 mm thick glass. This is necessitated by the panel’s large size.”

The WiFi antennas on the iPad are mounted facing both the front corner and the back, where they penetrate through the solid aluminum back via the window provided by the black plastic Apple logo.

iPad Launch Day Roundup

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Date: Saturday, April 3rd, 2010, 06:11
Category: iPad, News, Pictures

Ok, just got back from the iPad launch at the Apple Store in Arlington, Virginia, so bear with me here:

Coming up on the line, you heard cheering from about half a block away. With dozens of blue-shirted Apple employees running about, handing out coffee and water and high-fiving each other and customers, they’ve adopted something of a Wal-Mart employee rally mentality.

Not a bad thing, but a little weird…

Apple Store employees do a victory lap in advance.

Coming up on the line, there were about 75 people in a line to each side of the front door, the lines being divided into those with reservations and those without reservations who were hoping to snag a unit. Apple employees continued high-fiving customers before retreating into the store where their pep rally continued behind closed doors.

“For me it’s something new. The interface has changed enough for me not to say it’s the same thing. I love the fact that Netflix plays on it,” said an attendee at the head of the reservation line who identified himself as a former Apple employee named “Elon”. “It’s a device that lets you touch things and I like to touch things,” he joked.

Elon waiting in line for the Apple’s iPad.

“I do agree Flash does bog down my system, a lot of the naysayers it’s 95% of the web. I do fine with my videos and I don’t have to worry about Netflix. For someone who likes to play games, then yes, Flash will probably be a bummer.”

He then went on to comment that he’d arrived at the store around midnight the night before and was planning to buy the iPad, hop on the Metro, go home, sync it to iTunes and get to work on it.

Others were there for less direct reasons. Angela Lucas of Arlington, Virginia, snagged the top spot in the reserve line to buy an iPad for her husband’s birthday in two days’ time. “He wants to be the first among his friends to have it,” she said, smiling.

Tom Bridge, a local resident and owner of welovedc.com, seemed more excited about the iPad’s potential than anything else.

“I do have some hesitations, I’m not wild about the closed off development platform but I do know that there are a lot of awesome apps on day one and that people will find a way to make this work,” said Bridge, who then cited that he was looking forward to finding ways to blend the iPad with his business functions.

Upon the opening of the Apple Store’s doors, the staff eased the crowd in, limiting the number of people in the store, where almost all of the displays had been switched over to iPad demo units. Unlike the iPhone launches, customers were able to purchase their iPads quickly without any registration concerns and could either buy the iPad and leave or do an initial sync to iTunes in order to set the device up.

First out the door was Brad Gardner, a Washington, D.C. resident who was promptly swamped by interviewers and seemed more intent on getting home and setting the iPad up:

A few customers later, the ever-helpful Dominic Gohla exited the store and was happy to unpack the iPad for the cameras. Gohla had coordinated an arrival from Germany to pick up a reserved iPad and sat down in a nearby Starbucks to hop on the AT&T wireless network to offer the following demo and interview to a German web site (in German, so if any of you have a friend that knows German, yank them over to translate – I’ll be slamming my head against the desk):


Perhaps one of the coolest moments of the morning, Dominic demoed Apple’s new iBooks app with the complimentary copy of “Winnie The Pooh” that arrives with the program. The word “smooth” is applicable here and the pages not only turn easily, but can be grabbed and slowly turned from any portion of the page. Nice touch.

Prior to heading out, an attendee who identified himself as “Simon” perhaps summed up the hopes of the line the best. “This is a traveler’s dream device. I can take it on a flight and never get bored again,” he said. Simon then went on to offer that in spite of the lack of native Adobe Flash support for the device, he was reassured in that a lot of the big media companies seem to be turning around and supporting the HTML5 standard.

From a personal perspective, there’s a lot to be impressed with. The iPad is light, speedy, the screen is everything the user could ever want, the interface is responsive and the accelerometer seems to be working overtime, happily shipping between vertical and landscape views with only a slight turn of the tablet.

We’ll have a full review up in about a week’s time, but for the time being, this is definitely something cool and Apple seems to have taken its time to create a unique product that could, in fact, blow its tablet competition out of the water.

ABC, CBS to have iPad-compatible content ready for iPad launch

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Date: Friday, April 2nd, 2010, 03:11
Category: News

Per a Wall Street Journal report, the ABC and CBS television networks are ready to offer iPad-compatible content prepared in time for the device’s launch on Saturday.

Both CBS and Walt Disney’s ABC have planned for episodes of their TV shows to be viewable on Apple’s forthcoming iPad in time for its Saturday launch. Streaming episodes of TV shows will be available from CBS via its Web site, while ABC will offer a downloadable iPad application from the App Store.

While the initial offerings are expected to be limited at first, both networks plan to have identical content available both for the iPad and on their Web sites.

“Putting streaming video on the iPad would sidestep Apple’s iTunes content store, where Apple has been trying to juice anemic sales of TV episodes in advance of the iPad launch,” the report said. “So far, several media companies have rejected Apple’s push to lower the price for downloading shows from iTunes to 99 cents each, according to people familiar with the talks.”

Last week, it was revealed that Apple was testing HTML5 streaming video on an iPad-specific version of its Web site. Apple’s lack of support for Adobe Flash on its iPhone OS devices has forced networks like CBS and ABC to seek alternatives for their streaming solutions.

Apple is also looking to offer TV episodes for 99 cents from major networks, though the Journal reported Thursday that it is unknown whether any network will agree to that pricing by the Saturday launch. Episodes of TV shows typically retail for US$1.99 or US$2.99.

Apple launches iBooks app for iPad

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Date: Friday, April 2nd, 2010, 03:40
Category: iPad, Software

The day before the official U.S. launch of the iPad, Apple’s long awaited iBooks app is now available in the App Store. Per MacRumors, the app offers both a book reader, an online bookstore to purchase new books and the following:

- Complimentary copy of Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne.

- Read a free sample of any book on the iBookstore.

- Change font size, pick from five different included type faces.

- Highlight your favorite passages with the built-in bookmarking feature.

- Accessibility features such as speaking words on a given page.

iBooks requires iPhone OS 3.2 or later and an iPad to install and run.

Rumor: Hulu may offer “all-you-can-eat” subscription model for iPad

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Date: Thursday, April 1st, 2010, 04:07
Category: iPad, Rumor

With the iPad’s release a mere two days away, Hulu will reportedly embrace the platform with an iPad app that may offer an all-you-can eat subscription service to challenge Apple’s al a carte model.

Per the New York Times, four sources has stated that they ‘believe’ Hulu may test a subscription approach to its catalog of streaming TV shows through the forthcoming app, which wasn’t given a release date.

A joint venture of NBC Universal, the News Corporation and the Walt Disney Company, Hulu has seen its ad-supported, browser-based streaming service generate revenues of more than US$100 million and triple monthly streams to 903 million over the past year.

According to the article, many of Hulu’s content suppliers who are now pressuring the company to increase their share of the revenues and open doors to better monetization techniques, such as a subscription service that asks consumers to pay a monthly fee to gain unlimited access to a broad assortment of shows.

Apple held similar aspirations in the lead-up to this weekend’s iPad launch but was forced to table its own US$30 per month subscription efforts due to opposition from its network partners, which were said to have concerns that this could ultimately hurt their business and jeopardize “the tens of billions of dollars in subscription fees they are paid by cable and satellite companies for their traditional TV networks.”

Rumors of Hulu’s plans for the iPad have been circulating since the company was reported to be developing an Apple-friendly version of its website that would operate without the need for Adobe’s Flash video format, which isn’t supported on Apple’s mobile devices.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases iTunes 9.1 Update

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Date: Wednesday, March 31st, 2010, 04:27
Category: Software

blueituneslogo.jpg

Late Tuesday, Apple released iTunes 9.1, the latest version of its multimedia/jukebox application for Mac OS X. The new version, an 93.6 megabyte download, offers the following fixes and changes:

- Sync with iPad to enjoy your favorite music, movies, TV shows, books and more on the go.
- Organize and sync books you’ve downloaded from iBooks on iPad or added to your iTunes library.
- Rename, rearrange, or remove Genius Mixes.

iTunes 9.1 is available via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature and requires Mac OS X 10.4 or later to install and run.

Apple releases iPhone OS 3.2 SDK gold master

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Date: Tuesday, March 30th, 2010, 04:56
Category: iPad, iPhone, Software

Late Monday, Apple release the Gold Master version of its iPhone OS 3.2 SDK, which will act as the final version of the development kit. Per MacNN, developers can also now download the official iPad 3.2 firmware and corresponding licensing agreement with the agreement hints at terms for future firmware upgrades.

“Apple will provide you any iPad OS software updates that it may release from time to time, up to and including the next major iPad OS software release following the version of iPad OS software that originally shipped from Apple on your iPad, for free,” the agreement reads.

While iPhone owners have been permitted to download every major firmware update at no charge, the iPod touch requires a modest fee for similar downloads. The iPad appears to balance both models, providing one major revision at no cost but charging for further updates.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple to sell iPad from all U.S. Apple Store locations, “most” Best Buy locations this Saturday

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Date: Monday, March 29th, 2010, 11:14
Category: iPad, News

Apple on Monday announced that its iPad tablet will go on sale this Saturday, April 3rd, at all of its 221 U.S. Apple retail locations, as well as “most” Best Buy stores.

“iPad connects users with their apps and content in a far more intimate and fun way than ever before,” Apple CEO Steve Jobs said in a press release. “We can’t wait for users to get their hands and fingers on it this weekend.”

Per AppleInsider, Apple will offer free personal setup service to all customers who purchase an iPad in-store. The service will help users to customize their iPad by setting up e-mail, loading software from the App Store and more.

All U.S. retail Apple stores will also hold special iPad workshops Saturday morning. The sessions will allow customers to learn more about the capabilities of the product.

In addition to Apple retail stores and Best Buy locations, Apple stated that the iPad will be sold through Apple authorized resellers and campus bookstores.

Best Buy’s also revealed its iPad sales information this weekend and went on to state that about 675 Best Buy locations with designated Apple departments will begin selling the device on April 3rd. The retail chain has also reportedly planned a promotion for the device on April 11th.

The April 3 launch will be for the Wi-Fi-only version of the iPad, which costs $499 for 16GB, $599 for 32GB and $699 for 64GB. The 3G-capable versions will be available in late April and carry a $130 premium.

Apple exhausts supply of U.S. iPads available for pre-order, pushes ship dates back

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Date: Monday, March 29th, 2010, 04:17
Category: iPad, News

Apple has apparently exhausted its supply of iPads for the U.S. market per the company’s online store.

According to Macworld UK, Apple’s store noted that pre-ordered iPads might not ship until April 12th, more than a week after the tablet goes on sale. People who placed orders before the March 27th cut-off will still receive their iPads for Saturday, April 3rd, an Apple sales representative said on Sunday.

Apple began taking pre-orders for the iPad on March 12th, when it also allowed customers to reserve the tablet for pickup at Apple US retail stores. At the time, it promised to ship pre-ordered iPads so that they would arrive 3 April.

US retails stores contacted by Computerworld said that they had also exhausted their supplies of iPads available for pick-up next Saturday. However, a salesperson at a Portland, Ore. store said that reserved iPads that are unclaimed by 3 p.m. local time would be put up for sale to walk-in customers.

iPad sales have been the target of substantial speculation since Apple started taking pre-orders three weeks ago. Investment blogger Daniel Tello has been using iPad order numbers submitted by volunteers at Investor Village’s AAPL Sanity message board to estimate pre-sales. Last Friday, Tello upped his estimate to 240,000 units , a number that did not account for in-store reservations or bulk orders by businesses, schools and other organizations.

Apple will release the WiFi-only models on April 3rd in the US. The more expensive tablets that support both WiFi and 3G connectivity can be pre-ordered, but are not scheduled to ship until later, according to Apple’s online store.

If there have been any changes in your iPad order, please let us know.