Updated since 9:08am ET with Apple iPad related stock price.

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Pre-orders of the Apple ( AAPL) iPad started Friday and so too did the guessing game around how many of new tablet devices were being sold.

One of the most closely watched Apple iPad sales bloggers Deagol's AAPL Model estimated that first day orders hit 120,000 units but dropped off dramatically to end the weekend with a total of about 152,000 Apple iPads sold.

"That number is low," says an industry analyst who is independently monitoring the iPad sales. The analyst, who is collecting sales data for clients and asked not to be identified, says the current tally is conservative and actual iPad sales are significantly higher. The analyst declined to offer an estimate however.
iPad

It's worth noting that the Deagol numbers are based on an order number sequence provided by iPad buyers. The count only includes pre-orders for deliver and does not include pre-sales for store pickup.

The Moment of Proof

Apple's iPad is the first new product from the Mac shop in three years and a high stakes gamble on a new in-between category of touchscreen tablet devices. The Apple iPad needs to be a big hit to keep Apple's sales momentum growing and its hot-handed gadget streak alive.

But an iPad flop could be damaging to Apple's stock, which has soared to all-time highs in recent days on the tablet hype. With an aging iPhone and a line of luxury Mac computers to sell in a weak economy, Apple needs the iPad to live up to expectations.

And at this stage, without the device in people's hands, the iPad is still all about expectations.

Another analyst who says he's not authorized to speak publicly about the Apple iPad says we are seeing a great deal of pent-up demand for the iPad. He says the enthusiasm is so strong that he expects Apple to announce it has sold 1 million or even 2 million iPads when the device becomes available on April 3.

The concern, of course, is that new iPad owners and reviewers who run the tablet through their own hurdles may be disappointed with the device. The hands-on reaction by users and the performance of the iPad in test drives will help determine the pace of sales beyond the pre-order stage.

Wall Street analysts have predicted Apple iPad sales will be in a range between 2 million to as high as 10 million in the first year. Angela McIntyre of Gartner puts the number at 4.2 million.

The uncertainty around the iPad sales pace helped knock Apple's stock down 1% Monday. The shares were down and additional 42 cents, or less than 1%, to $223.42 in morning trading Tuesday.

--Written by Scott Moritz in New York.

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