For Apple Inc. and its iPad, the easy part is over.
After months of marketing hype that had fans grabbing their wallets this weekend, Apple announced Monday that it sold more than 300,000 of its new tablet computers Saturday -- a one-day total that topped the 2007 debut for the original iPhone.
While the Cupertino company did not release total sales figures for the holiday weekend as of Monday morning, analysts predicted shoppers would snap up more than 4 million units by the end of the year.
The company also said that, as of 12:01 a.m. Sunday, consumers had downloaded more than 1 million applications -- the small programs users can add to their devices -- and nearly 250,000 e-books from the company's iBookstore online marketplace.
Despite the robust start, given the country's economic malaise and the iPad's hefty price tag, analysts warned that questions linger as to when -- or if -- there will be similar mass-market adoption of the tablet as there has been of Apple's blockbuster iPod and iPhone devices. (The iPhone 3GS sold 1 million units in its first three days last year.)
They also point out that the initial rush of customers would be dominated by early adopters or Apple enthusiasts, who might be more forgiving of the fact that the company may not have worked out all of the kinks -- or found a so-called killer app.
"Apple reached first base," said Francis Sideco, an analyst at iSuppli Corp., an El Segundo research firm. Now, he added, "they've got to go get everyone else."
Some prospective buyers may be waiting until the end of the month for the 3G version of the iPad, which will cost up to $829 but can be used more like a smart phone. That could pose a problem down the road for Apple, according to analysts, who say the company must also walk a careful line with its iPad to ensure the device doesn't eat into sales of its popular line of laptops or iPhones.
But none of those concerns tempered Apple executives' glee at the consumer turnout.
"It feels great to have the iPad launched into the world," Chief Executive Steve Jobs said in a statement. "It's going to be a game changer."
Nearly 3,300 apps specifically developed for the iPad are available so far, one-third of them games, said Colin Sebastian, an analyst with Lazard Capital Markets.
More apps were sure to come, he said, because "as long as the iPad keeps selling, you're going to see a lot more innovation on this platform."
The frenzied start-up mentality that ruled Silicon Valley in dot-com boom times is again taking hold, with thousands of software developers scrambling to stake an early claim in the iPad gold rush.
Experience has taught them that the potential riches can be huge, particularly for those developers that get in early: The apps market for the iPhone and iPod Touch together top $1 billion in annual sales.
According to bestseller charts at Apple's iTunes store, consumers grabbed a movie-viewer from Netflix Inc. (free) and a digital book reader from Good.iWare Ltd. (99 cents).
SketchBook Pro, a touch-screen drawing app, made the iPad's top 10 download list, selling 10,000 copies at $7.99 each, according to maker Autodesk Inc.
Most of these apps were developed after Apple announced its plans to release the tablet in late January. Few software builders were given access to the device, so most developers had to resort to creative alternatives.
"We actually had paper cut-outs of iPads to start the design process, to imagine what holding one would be like," said Chris Cheung, the product manager in charge of the SketchBook Pro app.
Fans said they were happy, even giddy, days after their purchase. Aimee Willis had her husband playing baby-sitter most of the weekend so she could play with her new toy.
"It's completely mind-blowing and insane," said Willis, of West Hollywood. "I've pretty much been on it every free moment since."
But Apple took some licks as well: At least one fan tried to tap into the iPad mania on YouTube -- by being the first to pointlessly smash one on camera.
Justin Kocott uploaded a video Sunday of himself and friends destroying the $499 device with a baseball bat Sunday.
Less than 24 hours later, it had been viewed 280,000 times.
He said he was surprised to be accused of being an Apple hater.
"Not even. We still have two other iPads, plus my family has iPhones, Macs and iPods," said Kocott, 19, a Pittsburgh high school student.
"I love Apple, actually."