SAN FRANCISCO — As early enthusiasts begin to line up to get their hands on Apple Inc.’s latest gadget, application developers are looking to secure a foothold in the potentially lucrative market opportunity presented by the iPad.

Ahead of the iPad’s market launch today, Apple has said “well over” 1,000 apps will be available for the device. Specifically, these are applications that have been specially designed for the iPad, as opposed to the 150,000-plus apps that are already available for the company’s iPhone and iPod touch devices, though the company says most of the latter will still work on the iPad.

A spokeswoman for Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple wouldn’t detail the precise number of iPad apps available. Some Web sites Friday put the number at more than 1,300.

Apps are considered key for the success of the iPad. As a touch-screen tablet computing device, the iPad is geared in particular toward media-oriented activities such as surfing the Internet, watching videos and reading. So many of the early apps prepared for the device are from media providers such as newspapers, TV networks and game publishers.

“The number of apps may not be so important in the short term, as the people lining up to buy the iPad now don’t need convincing,” said Charles Golvin, an analyst for Forrester Research.

“In the long term, however, the value of this device is essentially going to be a function of applications.”

Expectations for the iPad are high. Many analysts expect sales to easily top more than 1 million units during the June quarter.

The iPad will be building on the system that Apple established with both iTunes and the App Store. The company’s iTunes has become a dominant distributor of music, TV shows and movies for Apple devices, while the App Store has helped keep the iPhone on top of the smart phone sector, providing applications that rivals haven’t matched.

Application developers include big names such as the New York Times Co., eBay Inc., Yahoo Inc. and Netflix Inc.