By Paddy Smith

At the weekend, Apple’s iPad launched in the US. We’ve read plenty about it already, but I’m sure you all know it’s the one everyone said looked like a giant iPod Touch – or iPhone despite the fact that it doesn’t make calls.

When Apple launches a new product – a new design, a new concept – the world gathers together to coo and ooh and aah. It’s the technological equivalent of a fireworks display.

The pyrotechnics at the opening display of Burj Khalifa would be a fair comparison.

While the buying public congregate at Apple’s shops, or online, to see what the fuss is about, the company keeps its cards close to its chest.

Rarely is a preview model sent out to journalists.

Rarely is there any actual experience of using the device prior to it going on sale. And every time Apple launches a new product, this sends bloggers, hacks, analysts, fanboys and pundits into a froth of rumour and speculation. It’s the best publicity any company could hope for.

But then, Apple’s recent track record is near flawless.

No other company can engage the level of excitement it can with a new product, nor sustain it for so long, nor – in most cases – deliver something that almost lives up to impossible expectations.

So it was surprising that the pre-launch frenzy for the iPad was more of a high simmer than the usual full-on boil.

Yes, there were rumours and speculation. Yes, there was a guy who camped out for two days to be first in line. Yes, it was mainstream headline news.

But, for the first time in five years (a long time in technology – the iPod is not yet ten, and the first model of that looks positively antiquated), it was not an extravagant firework display.

When the iPad was announced back in January, the reaction was muted. Many people couldn’t find the hole in their lives Apple wanted to plug. Some joked about the name. Others moaned about the lack of multitasking or USB ports. And Apple, which usually sits back to watch the plaudits roll in, has gone out of its way to try to steer the iPad boat back on to the right tack.

Preview units have been sent out to journalists, who have written nice things. And the techie-luvvie Apple fanboy of the moment, Stephen Fry, was invited to HQ to play with an iPad and chat with a list of top execs, all of whom are bona fide members of the gadget hall of fame.

In the week before a big launch, getting the top brass of any company to be in the same building at the same time would be a struggle, let alone with other people in attendance.

Yet they made it happen for Stephen, perhaps because he had been commissioned to write a long, fawning piece in Time magazine.

Is Apple nervous about the success of its new idea?

Probably not, but Apple is not as complacent as it once was.

The iPad may have to work for its success a little more than Apple thought.