Apple has confirmed that it sold more than three million of its new iPad in the first 72 hours it has been on sale.

To put this figure in context, the original iPad sold three million units in its first three months on sale. Apple is no stranger to big sales volumes, as the iPhone 4S sold four million units in its first three days on sale last October.

Apple Sells 3M iPads in Three Days
Apple has sold 40,000 iPads every hour since launching the new iPad.

The third generation iPad, dubbed the 'new iPad' by Apple, went on sale last Friday morning bringing with it the usual flurry of excitement with fans queuing around the clock to be among the first to get their hands on the 9.7in tablet. [Check out our pictures from teh Regent Street store here]

"The new iPad is a blockbuster with three million sold-the strongest iPad launch yet," said Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing. "Customers are loving the incredible new features of iPad, including the stunning Retina display, and we can't wait to get it into the hands of even more customers around the world this Friday."

Gushing aside, it is clear that the new iPad has grabbed people's imagination with the super high resolution Retina Display the key factor in getting people to upgrade from the original iPad or the iPad 2. However many of those surveyed during the launch said they were first time tablet buyers.

The new iPad saw the widest launch of an iPhone or iPad yet from Apple, with the tablet going on sale in the US, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Puerto Rico, Singapore, Switzerland, UK, and the US Virgin Islands.

Apple Sells 3M iPads in Three Days
Zohaib Ali, one of the first to own one of three million new iPads sold by Apple since Friday.

The iPad will be available in 24 more countries starting this Friday, 23 March. Those countries include Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Macau, Mexico, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden.

Yesterday, Apple announced its plans for some of its £65bn cash hoard which will be used to issue the first dividend in 17 years as well as to facilitate a share repurchase scheme. Apple is the world's most valuable company in terms of market capitalisation, valued at over $500bn.

If we track the success of the new iPad, it is clear to see that since effectively launching the tablet market two years ago, Apple has seen the adoption of the iPad grow very quickly. The original iPad sold 300,000 units in its first three days on sale, while the iPad 2 sold one million units during its 72 hours on sale.

While the new iPad is certainly on sale in more countries than the first two iterations, it is clear to see that Apple is the dominant force in the tablet market, with no other tablet coming close to this level of success.

As well as adding the 1536 x 2048 pixel resolution screen, the new iPad has also added a larger battery, a new dual-core A5X chip with quad-core GPU and support for faster 4Gmobile networks.

The final addition has been causing some confusion here in the UK as we don't have a working 4G network yet, and probably won't for a couple of years. The 4G radio is included in new iPads sold in the UK, but it will only work in those models sold in the US and Canada, where there are working Long Term Evolution (LTE) 4G networks. The new iPad however does have faster 3G radios based on HSPA+ and DC-HSDPA which promise up to double the download speeds (42Mbps) of the previous iPad.

Crunching the numbers, we can see that 40,000 new iPads were sold every hour over the last three days, meaning that Apple sold 666 iPads every minute since it launched. Now some people may read something into this number, but we'll let that for you to decide.