It's a little early to start talking about Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL ) inevitable iPad 3, but when has that stopped us before?
AllThingsD is reporting that the iPad 3 is already entering the beginning stages of production. The report cites Susquehanna analyst Jeff Fidacaro suggesting that Apple is ramping up fourth-quarter production to between 12 million and 14 million total iPad units, with between 600,000 and 1 million third-generation models. Last quarter, Apple sold 9.2 million units, and Apple is set to release fresh quarterly results Tuesday.
Chances are that Apple would be shooting for an early 2012 launch, possibly in the March to April time frame like previous generations, although it's entirely possible that it could see a delay like this year's iPhone 4S unveiling. Analysts have widely agreed that Apple should be in "no rush" to release the iPad 3 as competitors, from Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) Android tablets to Research In Motion's (Nasdaq: RIMM ) PlayBook, continue to come up short.
The next generation is reportedly set to feature a retina display, with a resolution of 2048 x 1536, similar to the pixel density found in current iPhones. Apple will continue evolving its custom-designed ARM Holdings (Nasdaq: ARMH ) -based processors, with the logical next generation called the A6. A6 production is rumored to be ditching Samsung and moving to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (NYSE: TSM ) , and the chip may even join the quad-core club.
NVIDIA (Nasdaq: NVDA ) is currently the only member of said club, with its newest quad-core Tegra chip this year. Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM ) and Texas Instruments (NYSE: TXN ) have both RSVP'd with their intentions to join. Qualcomm's quad-core Snapdragon and Texas Instruments' quad-core OMAP5 processors are slated for 2012.
The iPad 3 will also undoubtedly feature Siri, as iOS 5's key selling feature but only available on the newest devices. As badly as iPad competitors are faring, their prospects will only get worse as Apple keeps them on their toes.
Add Apple to your watchlist for earnings coverage next week. How many iPads will it move this quarter? Share your thoughts in the comments box below.