Customers at the University Village Apple Store got their first look at Apple's new device. Photo by Angelo Carosio | The Spectator

After several months of waiting and years of speculation, it’s finally arrived. The Apple iPad has been called a “revolutionary” “”polarizing” “magical” and “useless” device by various reviewers, but today the public finally got to lay their fingers on the glass and try it for themselves.

Lines slowly grew outside the University Village Apple Store before the 9 a.m. opening, but there was no shortage of iPads for people who didn’t pre-order the device. Jason Chan, an employee at the store, said that even though they had sold over 500 already, there was more than enough iPads to go around well after noon. Employees were cheering as people left the store with their new toys, and overall the environment was festive and exciting.

The table of demo iPads was bustling with people anxious to get their hands on the device, and there were lines behind every unit. The rest of the store was comparatively dead–it was surprising to see how many people just wanted to try the thing out.

“We’re encouraging people to give it a shot to see if they like it before they decide to buy one,” Chen said. “It’s really cool, a lot of people just want to come in, play with it, just see what it’s about.”

Holding an iPad in my hands was a distinct experience. It’s different than anything you’ve held before, the bright display and amazing thin-ness combine to make it seem like you’re holding nothing but pure screen. It may be “pretty much just a big iPod touch,” but the size (Over three times the screen real-estate) turns it in to a completely different machine entirely. Web pages don’t require you to scroll around to see everything, you can view both a list of your emails and the emails themselves on one screen, and the iTunes and Remote applications blow the ones on the iPhone out of the water.

A customer scrolls through the home screens on the new iPad. Photo by Angelo Carosio | The Spectator

The iPad has a large, 10-inch screen and runs the same OS as the iPhone and iPod touch. Photo by Angelo Carosio | The Spectator

The iPad makes for a perfect couch, bed, and casual browsing computer. While I didn’t get the chance to sit down with it, trying it in a variety of different scenarios (on a table, on a dock, holding it completely) made me realize that there doesn’t seem to be a wrong way to hold this thing. While holding it made it a bit awkward to type on, with it on a table on on your lap the keyboard seemed accurate and much easier to use than it’s iPhone counterpart, mostly due to the extra space.

“This is a completely new way to browse the web,” said one customer while browsing NYTimes.com on a demo iPad. “It’s just amazing.”

The next step for Apple after such a successful product release will be to ensure the quality of apps on the iPad app store live up to the quality of the device. Such a large screen will give developers much more to work with, and it seems that the store is already seeing innovative, useful apps that might not have been possible with the iPhone. Apple’s already created an iPad version of it’s iWork software, which allows for document creation, and new apps from giants like Netflix, ABC and Amazon ensure that the iTunes store isn’t going to be the only place you can go for content.

It’s hard to say whether or not this device will gain traction as fast as the iPhone and iPod lines did after their initial releases, but if the scene today was any indicator, it seems very possible. The price helps too: the iPad starts at $500, which is half the price of their entry-level laptop. For people who mostly use their computers for surfing, watching and playing games, that price seems pretty attractive.