Phileas Fogg traveled around the world in 80 days. Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) sold 3 million iPads over the same duration.

Timing is where the similarities end in these two stories. Fogg is fictitious, created by author Jules Verne for his 1873 novel, Around the World in Eighty Days. Apple's iPad sales performance is real, and really profitable. Next month, the Mac maker will begin selling the device in nine new countries.

"People are loving iPad as it becomes a part of their daily lives. We're working hard to get this magical product into the hands of even more people around the world," Apple CEO Steve Jobs said in a statement.

I'll bet. In the six months since I first opened my now crow-filled mouth about the iPad's market opportunity, Apple says developers have created some 11,000 new apps for the device. And just this week, Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS) and Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN) fired the opening shots in the first of what could be many e-reader price wars, all while the iPad remains above the fray.

Apple won't allow itself to be dragged into the mud with its two book-selling rivals, because it doesn't have to. The iPad isn't an e-reader, but rather a multimedia player. Owners love it for reading newspapers and magazines as much as they do books. They're also using it as a portable TV, thanks to YouTube and a partnership with Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX).

In the end, the iPad's sales figures tell us two things as investors:

  1. People love the device much more than I expected they would.
  2. By focusing on multimedia rather than literature, the iPad has defined itself as materially different than anything else on the market right now.

And that means today's sales momentum could continue through tomorrow, the next day, and months from now. Right up until Dell (Nasdaq: DELL) and Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ) introduce meaningful and appropriately priced alternatives -- and they'd better hurry up. As developers and consumers flock to the iPad, the device's momentum only builds.

Think I'm wrong? Give us your take using the comments box below. You can also weigh in on the impact of the iPad on Apple's shares by rating the stock in Motley Fool CAPS. Click here to build a CAPS portfolio today. It's 100% free to participate.

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Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team. He had stock and options positions in Apple at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. The Motley Fool is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. The Fool's disclosure policy likes its disclosure fair and unbalanced -- in favor of investors.