Preorders for the device kicked off October 26, and some models sold out quickly. It's unclear what sort of stock Apple has prepared for the device's launch, but given the worldwide availability, it will likely not be in short supply.
Lines formed at Apple Stores in various countries in the early hours of the morning where the iPad went on sale at 8 a.m. local time. Reuters reported more than 300 people formed lines at Apple Stores throughout Japan and Korea, though not as many people camped out at Apple Stores in the U.K. ahead of the device's release.
At 6 a.m. Eastern time, CNN counted more than 550 people waiting in line for the iPad Mini at Apple's flagship 5th Avenue store, despite the fact that New York City is still reeling from the impact of Hurricane Sandy.
The iPad Mini features a 7.9-inch display with 1024 x 768 resolution. In early reviews, the display was given poor marks for its low resolution. Several of the iPad Mini's closest competitors (Amazon Kindle Fire HD, Google Nexus 7) have smaller screens with more pixels. In fact, there are many smartphones that have much higher resolution displays than the iPad. For example, the Samsung Galaxy Note II has a 5.5-inch display with 1280 x 720 pixels and the Nexus 4 has a 4.7-inch display with 1280 x 768 pixels.
[ Microsoft is moving into Apple's territory. See 8 Cool Windows 8 Tablets. ]
The iPad Mini is powered by a dual-core A6 processor and 512 MB of RAM. It includes a 5-megapixel main camera and a 1.2-megapixel user-facing camera. It comes with storage capacities ranging from 16 GB to 64 GB, and various wireless options. The wireless variant being sold starting Friday includes only Wi-Fi. The version with LTE (AT&T, Sprint or Verizon Wireless) won't be for sale for several weeks.
The entry-level iPad Mini costs $329 and includes 16 GB of storage and Wi-Fi.
Despite complaints about the iPad Mini's display, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster thinks Apple will move plenty of them over time -- and possibly as many as 1.5 million this weekend.
"We believe that over time ... consumers will gradually realize the benefits of the smaller form factor iPad, which will drive adoption, although it may not take form in lines for [Friday's] launch," wrote Munster in a note to clients.
"While we don't believe we will see it [Friday], we believe the iPad Mini will gain momentum and become a more important product for Apple as consumers realize the benefits in portability and ease of use (one hand) from a smaller device size. We believe that the smaller tablet market has lacked the presence of a smaller iPad that brings the Apple ecosystem and brand to that market."
The iPad Mini is available at Apple Stores and select Apple resellers in the United States, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.