March 11, 2011, 2:14 PM — When the iPad debuted in April 2010, it was a huge success, with Apple selling about 300,000 of the tablet computers in the first 24 hours alone.
The iPad 2 made its debut on Friday, and some analysts think the new version's early sales will blow away the numbers generated by the first iteration of the Apple tablet.
Brian Marshall, an analyst at Gleacher & Co. who predicted more than a half-million in unit sales, is one of several who expect the iPad 2 to outpace its predecessor.
There are several reasons to believe that the iPad 2 will easily surpass, and perhaps even double, the first-weekend sales of the original:
* In addition to being sold in Apple stores, the iPad 2 can be purchased at other retail outlets, unlike the original, which initially was available only at Apple retail stores and through the company's web site. The iPad 2 will be available immediately at AT&T and Verizon Wireless stores, as well as Wal-Marts, Best Buys and Targets.
* Interest in the iPad has spread way beyond hardcore Apple fanboys, thanks to glowing reviews, constant media attention and Apple's relentless marketing push. Further, as iPads began appearing in workplaces and coffeeshops, non-fanboy consumers couldn't help but be impressed by and envious of the tablet computer.
* The white version of the iPad 2 will attract people who, well, want a white iPad. Now they can buy one.
* While the new version is priced the same as the original (it starts at $499), the iPad 2 is faster, lighter, thinner and includes more fun toys. That represents a great value for consumers.
It'll be interesting to see those first-weekend numbers.
Chris Nerney writes about the business side of technology market strategies and trends, legal issues, leadership changes, mergers, venture capital, IPOs and technology stocks. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisNerney.