NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- With Apple's ( AAPL) new iPad hitting U.S. stores early on Friday, analysts are predicting massive sales of the company's latest tablet over the next couple of days.

The iPad was launched in a blaze of publicity last week, with Apple touting the device's new Retina Display and 4G LTE capabilities. Just days after unveiling the iPad, Apple said that demand for its latest tablet is "off the charts", fuelling expectations of huge sales, particularly during its debut weekend.

Canaccord Genuity analyst Michael Walkley, for example, expects that Apple will ship well over a million iPads this weekend. The analyst also expects Apple to ship a total of 12.5 million iPads during the company's March quarter, up from 4.69 million in the same period last year.

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster recently said that Apple could sell more than 1 million iPads on Friday alone, citing the company's previous product launches.

Apple sold more than 300,000 iPads on the first day the device became available in 2010, including preordered tablets. Last year, when the iPad 2 was launched, the consumer tech giant did not release initial sales figures, although investors were looking for first-day sales of around a million tablets.

The new iPad arrived in the U.S. and nine other countries on Friday, such as the U.K., France, Germany, Japan and Australia, where the first "teardown" of the device was performed. The consumer tech giant will start selling the iPad in 25 additional countries on March 23, including Italy, Spain, Sweden and Mexico.

Clearly, Apple is already seeing robust demand for its latest tablet. When the iPad was first announced, the Cupertino, Calif.-based company said it was available to ship on March 16. Late last week, this date was pushed back to March 19. On Friday, the company's Web site says that the new iPad will ship within two to three weeks of customers ordering the device online.

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Brian Marshall, an analyst at ISI Group, notes that supply couldn't match demand following Apple's iPad 2 launch last year. "I expect a similar pattern this time around," he added, in an email to TheStreet.

Marshall expects Apple to ship 60 million iPads in calendar year 2012, a hike of around 50% on 2011. The analyst also predicts around 11.3 million iPad shipments during the company's March quarter.

Shares of Apple surpassed $600 for the first time on Thursday, before pulling back. The company's stock was up $1.12, or 0.19%, to $586.68 on Friday.

-- Written by James Rogers in New York

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