Lines for launch of Apple's new iPad declared 'better than expected'

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Lines for the new iPad in New York City were declared "better than expected" on Friday, considering Apple began accepting preorders online more than a week ago.

Analyst Gene Munster with Piper Jaffray counted the number of people in line Friday at Apple's stores in New York City, and found that the crowds were smaller than last year's iPad 2 launch. But last year's launch came later in the day, at 5 p.m., and Apple also didn't take iPad 2 pre-orders in 2011.

Munster counted 750 people in line at the flagship Fifth Avenue Store, compared to 1,190 for the iPad 2 last year. In addition to the pre-orders and earlier start time, he said the new Grand Central Terminal Apple Store probably took some traffic away from the glass cube on Fifth Avenue.

Munster has maintained his prediction that Apple will sell a million units on launch day, including pre-orders. He expects Apple to announce that figure next week, on Monday.

"We believe this would imply iPad units slightly ahead of the Street at 10.2 million for the March quarter," he said in a note to investors on Friday.

Fifth Ave opening for new iPad launch. Video credit to AppleInsider reader Ryan.

Customers who order a new iPad from Apple's online store will wait an estimated two to three weeks before their order ships. The launch of the new iPad has been Apple's largest product roll-out ever, as sales began on Friday in a total of 10 countries.

Munster believes that Apple will sell 60 million iPads this year, with sales growing to 86.5 million in 2013, 122 million in 2014, and 176 million by calendar year 2015. In the coming years, he expects that Apple will continue to maintain majority market share of the tablet space, and he also believes that Apple will release a smaller, sub-$300 iPad in 2013.