By Philip Elmer-DeWitt
October 12, 2010

With displays in BestBuy, Target and now Walmart, Apple is going for the holiday gift market

Walmart WMT confirmed late Monday what the rumor sites had been reporting since Friday: starting Oct. 15, it will begin selling iPads on a schedule that would put Apple’s AAPL tablet computer in 2,300 Walmart stores by mid-November — just in time for the holiday gift-buying season.

When you add Walmart to the 221 U.S. Apple Stores, 1,093 BestBuy BBY outlets and 1,743 Target TGT stores carrying the device, that brings to more than 5,300 the number of places Americans can buy a loved one the gift of an iPad this year (hint, hint).

The devices can also be ordered online through Amazon AMZN ‘, but there they are selling — inexplicably — for anywhere from $75 to $88 above list price. NOTE: These are prices set by third-party vendors, not Amazon itself.

Apple has never been so quick to push a product out to the big retail chains. The iPhone didn’t show up at Walmart until December 2008, a year and a half after it launched. The iPod took even longer.

While it may be true that Apple is feeling pressure from the flood of Google GOOG Android tablets headed for market, it’s also clearly trying to cash in on what has proved to be a hit of unexpected proportions — and which could turn out to be this year’s must-have electronic gizmo.

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[Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter @philiped]

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