Apple Begins Shipping iPad Pre-orders

The first wave of reports saying iPad pre-orders are shipping started coming in on Monday morning, ahead of the multimedia tablet’s official Saturday launch date.

Since the iPad isn’t scheduled to be available until April 3, the units that are in transit now will most likely stop in a shipping holding facility so that they don’t land in customer’s hands before Saturday. Apple has previously requested that shipping companies hold iPhones so that they wouldn’t be delivered before the official launch date, too.

Apple unveiled the iPad at a special media event in January, and began taking pre-orders and reservations for in-store pickups on March 12. The company, however, pushed the delivery date from April 3 to April 12 over the weekend for all new pre-order requests and dropped the option for reservations.

Only the 16GB, 32GB and 64GB iPad with Wi-Fi will be available on Saturday. Wi-Fi plus 3G models are set to ship before the end of April.

The iPad is a multimedia tablet that can run most iPhone applications. It includes a 9.7-inch multitouch display, movie and music playback support, an ebook reader and iTunes-like ebook store, Bluetooth with support for external keyboards, and more.

Now that pre-orders have started shipping, reports of people trying to convince shippers to deliver their iPads early are no doubt only days away.