Apple Computer reports selling approximately 300,000 units of its heavily hyped iPad unit the first day.  The product, which has been called “nearly a laptop killer,” weighs a pound and a half, is just half an inch thick, and lets users browse the web, read and send email, share photos, watch HD videos, listen to music, play games and read ebooks.

The device went on sale Saturday at prices between $499 for a 16GB version and $699 for a 64GB. The quantity sold was in line with analyst forecasts, and, according to news reports, sales were heavily skewed toward previous owners of Apple products such as iPhones and Macintosh computers.

For the telecom industry, the big questions will come later this month when iPad models with WiFi and 3G capability will hit the market at prices between $629 for a 16GB version and $829 for 64GB. AT&T, which has been the exclusive iPhone carrier, has experienced capacity problems with its network as a result of the iPhone’s popularity, but the carrier says it has largely addressed those problems and is ready to support the iPad.

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Depending on its long-term popularity, the iPad could further accelerate the build-out of carrier Ethernet networks to support mobile backhaul, an area that has seen major activity in recent months from carriers as diverse as CenturyLink, Qwest and Level 3.

Most industry observers agree the current version of the product will not make the laptop obsolete any time soon as it lacks a true keyboard and USB ports. But features such as those are probably on Apple’s product roadmap—and the product is likely to attract imitators, who could add those capabilities in the event that Apple doesn’t.

Once that happens, some stakeholders predict that products such as the iPad, coupled with high-speed 4G wireless capability, could lead to data cord cutting. Just as some cellphone users see no need for a landline phone, some laptop users may begin to forego a wireline broadband connection—an eventuality that FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski alluded to in a recent Wired interview.

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