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Monday, March 15, 2010, 05:15 am PT (08:15 am ET)

Preorders for Apple iPad slow after 120K first-day rush

Enthusiasts tracking presales of the iPad believe Apple sold 120,000 units on its first day of availability, though excitement is estimated to have dropped considerably on days two and three.

Users on the AAPL Sanity Board at Investor Village have taken their order numbers and used them to figure out how many total preorders Apple has taken for the iPad. On Friday, the first day of availability, they determined that an estimated 51,000 units were sold in the first two hours. By the end of the day, they found that 120,000 were secured in the first 24 hours.

But according to Philip Elmer-DeWitt with Fortune Brainstorm Tech, by Saturday and Sunday those order estimates had slowed to about 1,000 per hour, suggesting demand for the device died off considerably after the first day.

Daniel Tello, who has been tracking the numbers closely, predicted that Apple will sell about 30,000 iPad preorders on weekdays, and half of that on weekends. He forecasts no more than a half-million preorders and reservations will be taken before the April 3 launch. He told Elmer-DeWitt he believes Apple will sell 1 million iPads by the second week after the device ships.

Most among the preorders tracked at Investor Village opted for the Wi-Fi-only model, coming on top by a two-to-one margin. The Wi-Fi iPad will be available April 3, while the 3G-enabled versions, which carry a $130 premium, will arrive later that month. Preorders saw a relatively even split among capacities, with the largest model, 64GB, accounting for 35 percent of orders.

Users who wish to add to the iPad sales tracking project can help by sending their order number with the last three digits X-ed out, the number of iPads ordered, order time, time zone, memory capacity and whether they purchased a 3G or Wi-Fi model to ipadsales10@gmail.com.

Despite the sharp drop-off in preorders, a half-million sales before the product ships would be an excellent start for Apple, as low-end estimates on Wall Street had forecast the iPad would sell 1 million units in its entire first year. Tello's numbers, on the other hand, would have Apple reaching that milestone in a matter of weeks.