Yes, the Apple Store was down and yes, when it came back something was different. That something different, at least for people outside the U.S., was iPad pre-orders. They have started.
If that excites you to no end (and you reside outside the U.S.) you can head over to the Apple Store are place your preorder using denominations that are probably U.S. dollars. Launch day is still May 28. [Apple UK]