The iPad 2 now on sale! (Well, at 5 PM)

Today is the launch of Apple’s brand new tablet, and while many people have poked fun at Apple quickly making its product irrelevant, this one comes less than a year after the first iPad was released.

It’s only been about 11 months since the iPad made its fateful entry into the consumer marketplace. It’s precisely for that reason that there aren’t expected to be huge lines outside Apple Store around the country.

The iPad isn’t exactly a cheap device. At a cost of $500 – $800, even the strongest Apple fanboys will have a tough time justifying buying a brand new version of the device when they haven’t even owned the current one for a year.

For those who really have to have the latest tech, though, today is the big day. And because it’s Apple, it can’t just be a normal launch day where you get to buy the device as soon as the store opens. Apple has instructed all Apple Store locations, as well as Best Buy, Walmart, Target, AT&T, and Verizon, all of which are selling the tablet as well, to not bring out the iPad 2 until 5:00 PM.

Those who prefer to order online, however, can go crazy right now. Purchases at opened up at 4:00 AM Eastern Time this morning. There, the device is referred to only as the ‘iPad,’ not iPad 2.

Today’s launch is noteworthy, though, because of the expansive list of retail partners. More than 10,000 stores have stocked the iPad 2, giving consumers flexibility in where they want to buy the gadget. So even if there were going to be a lot of long lines, they’d be spread out among more stores.

We’ll see if this expanding retail presence continues when the iPhone 5 – which will most certainly draw more buzz – is released.