The tablet computer might not be breaking new ground in the way the iPod did when it debuted in 2001 – other tablets are already on the market - but Apple is certainly banking on its latest device setting the standard.

Now the question is, will anyone buy it?

Frenzied speculation

Certainly the gigabits of chatter the device generated even before its launch should translate into healthy queues at Apple stores when the iPad finally goes on sale at the end of March.

 Shiny on the outside, but will the iPad translate into iWant? [GALLO/GETTY]
The anticipation surrounding Wednesday's Apple launch "event" in San Francisco capped months of frenzied speculation on the internet, as tech pundits and bedroom geeks battled it out over what exactly Apple's next big thing would be.

Leaks, guesses and doubtless a fair bit of guerrilla marketing by Apple itself eventually settled the debate fairly firmly on the device being a tablet.

Some had even dubbed it the "iSlate" – perhaps Apple is saving that for something else.

But the frenzy of anticipation before Wednesday's launch was as nothing, it seems, compared to the torrent unleashed when Steve Jobs, Apple's Chief Executive Officer (CEO), stepped on to the stage in San Francisco.

Whipped up to new heights of tech dizziness, internet servers around the world ground to a halt as Apple's polo-necked CEO unveiled the new device.

Twitterers found their tweets silenced or delayed by up to 20 minutes as the Twitter site groaned under the weight of geeks screeching about the new tablet.

"Oh internet, with speeds so slow. What is it about Apple you don't want me to know?" sighed twitterer Interactivemark.

"The whole internet is slow today," tweeted Smokingapples, adding simply: "Apple happened".

Swamped

Sites using the Cover It Live software to blog on live events found themselves unable to keep up, while others relaying audio and video coverage of the Apple-fest seized up entirely under the weight of demand.

The iPad works in a similar way to the iPhone and iPod Touch [GALLO/GETTY]
Meanwhile gadget review sites such as Gizmondo and Engagdet were swamped as users rushed to find out exactly what the new device is and what it can do.

Even some major internet service providers were caught unawares, their email systems choked as the iPad became the talk of the internet.

Essentially the consensus seems to be that the iPad is like a larger version of the iPod Touch, first launched in 2007 - itself essentially a cut down iPhone without the phone bit.

On the surface, few can doubt that the iPad looks great, but sceptics have pointed out that a tablet device is not necessarily an easy sell.

Despite the buzz around the launch and Apple's slick marketing machine behind it, there are questions whether the appetite for such a device will live up to expectations.

Other tablets have tried and failed to create much of a ripple, and critics have already pointed to some of the limitations in the iPad.

Like the iPhone it cannot, for example, run multiple applications.

Shattering potential

Then there is the simple fact of its drop-ability. All that lovely unprotected shininess could so easily come to a shattering end with a simple slip of the fingers.

The launch of the iPad – retailing from $499 for the most basic version - also comes at a tough time economically, especially in the US where despite some signs of recovery few people are as yet buying anything.

iPod mark one: Kind of clunky
nine years on [GALLO/GETTY]
So will the shiny new iPad stand the test of time?

Is it, as Apple doubtless hopes, a defining device in the emergence of portable media technology?

Sure, it looks sleek and futuristic now.

But take a look back at that first generation iPod, born into the market just nine short years ago.

I still have one at the back of my desk drawer somewhere; somewhat scratched and battered, but still capable of playing some tunes if only it could get a bit of a charge.

It wowed us back in 2001 with its compact design, its shiny case and revolutionary wheel interface.

But now ... blow the dust off it ...

How clunky does that look!?