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You should still wait online, not in line, for a third-gen iPad

Ordering online means waiting, but waiting in a line could take even longer. My advice: hedge your bets.

Last year's iPad 2 launch. Sarah Tew/CNET

As the latest iPad nears its official availability date of March 16, those who haven't preordered already are left in a quandary.

To no great surprise, newly placed Apple iPad orders now won't ship for another 2-3 weeks. So, should you try waiting in a line at an Apple store or retailer on Friday instead for your iPad fix?

I wouldn't advise it, unless you have lots and lots of spare time. My previous experience waiting on iDevice lines in New York City was frustrating, and filled with tons of resellers. This year, the third-gen iPad will be going on sale in a number of countries worldwide on Friday, which theoretically could help reduce the reseller line issue.

It's hard to tell right now. Still, from my experience buying devices like the iPad 2 and iPhone 4S, the waiting-in-line system has become an extremely dicey proposition. In case you forgot what last year was like, refresh your iPad 2 launch madness memories here.

It took me weeks to shop for an iPad 2, and I eventually found it at a Best Buy on 45th Street with the assistance of a message board that posted availability updates at regional stores. I'm embarrassed to admit that it took a couple of weeks to track down a store that had the iPad in stock.

I wouldn't advise that level of obsessiveness; take the easy path and preorder it now. Last year, wait times when ordering an iPad 2 online climbed from a few days up to 3-4 weeks before becoming more manageable. The current 2-3 week wait sounds bad, but it could be worse.

If you happen to find it in a store on Friday, cancel the preorder: you can do that as long as the product hasn't started its shipping process. With a good four days until the iPad's in stores, you might as well get your order in online in the meantime, if you're serious about getting one soon.

And then again, you can do what's even harder for most people: wait.

What are your plans?