(USA Today) -- It's official: the new iPad has landed in the U.S.
Apple stores started opening in the U.S. at 8 a.m. local time, giving eager consumers first dibs on the company's highly-anticipated third-generation tablet.
Dozens of people gathered in lines across the country in hopes of bringing home an iPad.
"It's no fun to order online," says Chan Park, 48, of Fairfax, Va. He waited in line at an Apple store in Tysons Corner, Va., to snag an iPad for his 16-year-old son. "There's some excitement waiting in line."
Skerdi Kostreci, 38, of Vienna, Va., also braved the early morning lines to scoop up his third iPad. "I had the first iPad. I have iPad 2. Now I have to get the new one," Kostreci says, adding he's giving his iPad 2 to his wife.
Lynn Pelletier was first in line at Lenox Square mall in Buckhead to buy her first iPad -- and Apple product. She said she spent three days researching whether to buy the iPad or an Android tablet, and she settled on the iPad.
Also among those waiting for the new iPad: Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, who was first in line at a store in Los Angeles, Mashable reports.
"It's become a ritual," says Wozniak. "Because I've done it so many times, I'm doing it again." He was also one of the first people in line to snag the iPhone 4S last October.
Lizandra Osorio, 23, of Bridgeton, N.J., first tried a New Jersey Walmart at midnight, but the store had only a few iPads, so she drove to a shopping mall in Delaware at 2 a.m. Hundreds of people were ahead of her.
"I was planning to be first in line, but that plan failed," Osorio laughed, wrapped in a fleece blanket outside the mall. "If I can get one in my hands, it'll be worth it."
Sam Fong, 37, and Jimmy Koo, 27, drove about three hours from New York City to Delaware -- which doesn't charge sales tax -- by about 3 a.m.
"I want the new one," said Fong, who has an iPad 2.
About 80 people lined up outside the Apple store in Freehold, N.J., Thursday morning to take their bite out of Apple's iPad.
At the head of the class was Arthur Nazarov, 29, of Brooklyn. He and a few others had been standing outside the mall since 3 a.m. "freezing our butts off," Nazarov said.
"I stood still and tried to keep my feet moving," he said, sipping a cup of Starbucks coffee handed out by Apple staff from a mobile cart.
At least 30 blue-shirted staff lined up and applauded as Nazarov and a few others who had pre-ordered their iPads were allowed to enter the store.
He said he made the hour-long trip to New Jersey because "New York is New York -- it's overcrowded. I figured here the lines would be a little lighter."
Apple also launched the new iPad in nine other countries: Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
In Australia, dozens waited in line outside an Apple store in Sydney to snag their device. As BusinessWeek reports:"Employees in blue T-shirts cheered and counted down the 10 seconds until doors opened at 8 a.m. A queue of at least 200 people snaked 100 meters around three sides of the city block."
In Japan, more than 450 people waited at an Apple store in Tokyo in hopes of getting an iPad, the Wall Street Journal reports.
One student, Ryo Watanabe, tells the Journal he and a friend took turns waiting in line for 37 hours to be first in line. "The fact that the display has gotten better is a big enough reason for me to get it," Watanabe tells the paper.
Meanwhile, iPad mania appears equally powerful in London, according to the Telegraph. Among consumers waiting for the tablet was a 21-year-old who had camped out for the past five days.
"The iPad is the best product of the year and there won't be any more until 2013 so I am happy to queue," Zohaib Ali tells the Telegraph.
As for the iPad's U.S. release, don't expect every person to flash smiles at Apple stores. The Los Angeles Times reports dozens of protesters are expected to show up at locations in New York, San Francisco and Washington to "bring attention to concerns about the welfare of the Chinese factory workers who churn out the devices to satisfy a growing global demand."
"It's great to see Apple taking important steps like auditing its factories and paying raises for factory workers," said Mark Shields, who launched a campaign through Change.org protesting work conditions in China, in a statement. "But Apple hasn't crossed the finish line yet. New product releases, like the iPad 3 this week, have typically been the most dangerous for workers because of the incredible pressure they are under to meet release production deadlines."
The device includes a Retina display, faster processing chip with quad-core graphics and an iSight camera.