(CNN) -- Thousands of people emerged from stores across the United States on Saturday clutching newly purchased iPads, the tabletlike computer that's Apple's most-awaited product since the first iPhone launched three years ago.
Some buyers said they wanted a lightweight computer they could carry around easily or use from their couch, while others were diehard Apple fans who said they were eager to possess the company's latest gadget -- even if they're not sure what they'll use it for.
"I don't know what it is -- I just think it's going to be something that's really cool," said Mark Bowling outside an Apple store at Lenox Square mall in Atlanta, Georgia. "I can't figure out how to use it if I don't have one."
Anecdotal reports suggested strong initial consumer interest in the device, which went on sale Saturday morning. At Apple's flagship store on Fifth Avenue in New York, hundreds of shoppers -- many of whom had camped out overnight -- were in line when the doors opened at 9 a.m.
Employees at an Apple store at 14th Street and Ninth Avenue in New York told shoppers they expected to be sold out of iPads by the end of the day, Julio Ortiz-Teissonniere told CNN's iReport. Later, an employee said the store still was selling iPads shortly before 7 p.m., though he declined to elaborate about the store's supply.
Without citing figures, employees at other Apple stores across the country said Saturday afternoon and evening that they still had iPads to sell. One worker at a store on Stockton Street in San Francisco, California, said it had just a limited stock of 16-gigabyte iPads left late in the afternoon, but it still had a pretty good number of 32- and 64-gigabyte iPads.
Calls to Apple officials from CNN had not been returned by Saturday evening.
Lines of more than 100 people were reported Saturday morning outside Apple stores in Miami, Florida, and Atlanta. Rain failed to keep away a crowd of umbrella-wielding iPad buyers outside an Apple store in Chicago, Illinois.
"I'm really excited. I've been craving this for a long time," said a young man who was the first to buy an iPad at an Apple store in Miami Beach, Florida. The man, who gave his name to Miami's WPLG-TV as Frank Gonzalez, held his iPad box over his head triumphantly as other shoppers cheered.
A cross between a netbook and a smartphone, the iPad is a lightweight, portable computer with a glass multitouch screen that wirelessly surfs the Web, displays photos and videos, runs apps and plays games and movies, among other potential uses.
"I've been waiting for this form factor for a long time," said computer programmer Robert Wojciechowski, 31, outside the Lenox Square Apple store in Atlanta.
"I think it fills a gap between the desktop, the laptop and the phone," he said. "It's the appliance that I've wanted on my coffee table."
Other buyers said they were excited about the iPad's potential as an electronic reader whose 9-inch color screen will show e-books plus newspaper and magazine articles.
Mary Inman, 58, said she will take the device on vacations to Mexico instead of lugging five or six books. Inman, waiting outside the Lenox Square store, said she grew jealous of her husband and daughter, both of whom own e-readers.
A self-confessed Apple fanatic, Inman said she already owns two iPods, an iPhone, an iMac, a MacBook and an Apple TV console. "I'm one of those," she said.
Harry Crosland, a CNN iReporter from Upper Marlboro, Maryland, said his first few hours with his new iPad left a good impression. He said certain apps will be much better on the iPad than on smaller Apple devices such as the iPhone. He especially enjoyed running a Marvel Comics app on Saturday.
"[The iPad] is perfect for reading digital comics," Crosland, 40, told CNN by phone Saturday afternoon. "I tried to use it on the phone, and it didn't give you that same feel. ... Comic books are designed for a large format, so you can appreciate the art and read it. It's difficult to do on a small device."
He said the iPad's touchscreen keyboard doesn't feel natural to him, so he'll need some time to get used to it. But Crosland, who also owns a MacBook, said iPad's portability will be a key feature. Because it is smaller than his 5-pound MacBook, he said, the 1.5-pound iPad will be great for reading or watching video on a plane and doing anything that won't require heavy-duty work.
Prices for the iPad range from $499 to $829, depending on storage space and whether the device works with a Wi-Fi connection only or with Wi-Fi and AT&T's wireless 3G network.
The iPads that went on sale Saturday at Apple's 200-plus retail stores in the United States, at Best Buy stores and through iTunes, Apple's online store, were Wi-Fi-enabled models. iPads that also work over 3G networks will go on sale in late April, Apple has said.
Saturday's launch was in the U.S. only. All models of the iPad will go on sale in late April in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
Anticipation for the iPad's release has been building since Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the device in San Francisco, California, in January.
CNN's Jason Hanna contributed to this report.