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Apple stores to open at 8 a.m. Friday for sales of new iPads

In less than 48 hours, Apple's brick-and-mortar retail stores are scheduled to open early to sell the third-generation iPad in 10 different markets -- the U.S. (including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands), Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Switzerland and Britain.

Each Apple store is set to open at 8 a.m. local time instead of the usual 10 or 11 a.m. start. At many stores, iPad consumers are already lining up outside to get the hot new tablet on day one of availability.

Industry analysts are projecting that Apple could sell about 1 million iPads in the first 24 hours the devices are on sale across the 10 markets. That number is expected to grow in the coming months as businesses and consumers are expected to purchase more iPads than ever before.

Apple sold 15.43 million iPads in the last three months of 2011, up 4 million from the prior three-month period.

On March 23, Apple said Wednesday, the new iPad is set to launch in 25 more markets, including Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Macao, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.

Over the weekend, Apple sold out of its release-date-delivery allotment for new iPad pre-orders, pushing the shipment times for online orders to two to three weeks.

Apple's new iPad features a touchscreen with a 2048 x 1536 pixel resolution (double that offered by the first two generations of the tablet), a new 5-megapixel rear camera, a quad-core graphics processor and, in some models, the ability to connect to faster 4G wireless networks.

The price of the new iPad will match the price points set by the iPad 2 and the first-generation iPad.

A Wi-Fi-only 16-gigabyte third-generation iPad will sell for $499, while a 32-gigabyte model will run $599 and a 64-gigabyte unit will fetch $699. If you want a 4G LTE capable new iPad, the prices are: 16-gigabytes for $629, 32-gigabytes for $729 and 64-gigabytes for $829.

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