Apple stores around the world are opening early Friday — at 8 a.m. — to sell the new iPad. Judging by the speed at which people snapped up the pre-orders for the tablet, the stores will be packed with customers and those just curious to see the device. Chances are, there will be a lot of happy folks slinking into work late Friday.

Analysts expect that Apple will sell at least 55 million iPads by the end of 2012, bringing total iPad sales up to 100 million. The new iPad is expected to do very well, with Reuters reporting that Canaccod Genuity analysts T. Michael Walkley and Matthew Ramsay say ing that they “anticipate a record iPad launch this weekend.”

So, Apple enthusiasts, bring your water bottle, some snacks and a well-charged smartphone because it sounds like it could be a big one. You may also want to consider a camp chair, because actually standing in line all morning is very few people’s idea of fun.

If you want to avoid the circus at the Apple store but absolutely have to have the tablet Friday, you could also try other retailers carrying the iPad. These include AT&T and Verizon stores, Best Buy, Radio Shack, Target and Wal-Mart. Before you head out to those stores, however, it’s best to call and check their availability.

Of course, if you think you can wait the two to three weeks currently listed on Apple’s online store, then you could save yourself the boredom of standing in line.

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