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Strong demand pushes new iPad 2 shipments from Apple back to 3-4 weeks

Shipping times for new iPad orders continue to slip, with orders placed as of Saturday evening estimated to ship within 3 to 4 weeks.

Demand for the iPad 2 has been so strong in its first 24 hours of availability that Apple has been forced to push back estimated ship times yet again. While initial orders placed in Apple's online store began shipping Saturday for a March 17 delivery, those who hesitated to buy will be forced to wait longer.

Initial orders were scheduled to ship in two to three days, but that estimate was quickly pushed back on Friday as orders continued to flood in. By later Friday morning, new orders were estimated to ship within 2 to 3 weeks.

But orders placed late Saturday may not ship for up to a month. And many retail locations, which began selling the iPad 2 in person Friday evening, have already sold out of their initial stock.

Analysts expect Apple to sell more than a half million of the iPad 2 in its first weekend of availability, besting the debut of the first-generation iPad last year. On the bullish end, one analyst has said that Apple could sell as many as a million of the iPad 2 at launch, thanks to expanded retail availability of the device and greater consumer interest.