Apple's next must-have gaget, the iPad tablet computer, went on sale here Saturday after overnight waits for those determined to be the first to get their hands on one.

After a countdown fit for New Year's Eve, the Apple store in Manhattan welcomed the some 500 customers, and hoardes of media, waiting to get in with high-fives and cheers.

Adi Thomas, 38, had flown from Australia just for the opportunity.

"It's slim, beautiful. I really want to get it home and play with it," she said.

The tablets went on sale right at 9:00 am and a few customers had been waiting since early the day before.

Eleven-year-old Giovanna Mullen said she staked out her place outside the store at 5:00 am Friday with her mother and grandmother.

Like others in the queue, the trio had not pre-ordered iPads so resorted to hours of waiting to get the gadgets.

"I am buying two, for me and for my daughter," said Jeanney Mullen, who works in digital publishing, adding that the iPad intrigued her.

Users can watch video, listen to music, play games, write emails, surf the Web or read electronic books on the 9.7-inch (24.6-centimetre) touchscreen device.

The iPad also runs most of the 150,000 applications made for the iPod music player and the iPhone.