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Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) has started manufacturing the sequel to its popular iPad tablet, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal, a development that, though expected by analysts, will add even more ferment to the burgeoning tablet market. Additionally, the report said AT&T (NYSE: T ) Mobility and Verizon (NYSE: VZ ) Wireless will carry the new iPad, but that Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S ) and T-Mobile USA will not.
The report, which cited unnamed sources familiar with the matter, said new iPad will be thinner and lighter and have more memory and a more powerful graphics processor than its predecessor. The report also said the iPad sequel will have at least one camera to enable video conferencing, a feature that was left off the original iPad but has since become standard in many other tablets. Interestingly, the report said that the new iPad will not sport an improved screen resolution, which is due in part to Apple's inability to obtain higher-resolution screens for a device with a screen that's more than double the size of the company's iPhone.
An Apple spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Apple has sold 14.8 million iPad since debuting the gadget in April, including 7.33 million in its most recent quarter. The iPad contributed $4.6 billion to Apple sales, or 17 percent of its total revenue, in the company's most recent quarter.
J.P. Morgan analyst Mark Moskowitz wrote in a December research note that he expects tablet shipments will reach 46 million in 2011, totalling $24.9 billion. That will grow to 78.2 million and revenue of $34.1 billion in 2012, the firm predicted -- adding that Apple will retain a tight grip on the market. J.P. Morgan's estimate for 2011 is slightly higher than IDC's prediction of 42 million tablet shipments in 2011.
Despite Apple's headstart--many competitors still have not commercially launched their answers to the iPad--the rest of the market is not standing still. Hewlett-Packard is expected to unveil at least one tablet today running Palm's webOS platform. Further, a host of companies, including LG, Motorola Mobility (NYSE: MMI ) and Samsung, are expected to launch tablets running version 3.0 of Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG ) Android platform, which is specifically designed for tablets. Further, Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM ) is expected to soon launch its BalckBerry PlayBook tablet, which runs on QNX software.