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It's that time of year again!
No, not the time for fireworks under the frosty stars, or tipsy hugs as the world's largest disco ball drops on Times Square. I'm not even talking about the end of the tax year (but you'd better have your tax-planning stock sales done by now, buddy).
This is the time of year when rumors about the next Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) iPad pop up, silly.
Today, the hot tip from Taiwanese business publication DigiTimes says that the iPad 3 will get a fancy new screen that rivals the resolution of the iPhone Retina display. We're talking about a full HD screen in 10 inches of diagonal real estate, courtesy of indium gallium zinc oxide panels from Sharp.
Mind you, this particular news outlet is about as reliable as your iPod after an accidental turn through the washer and dryer. For example, DigiTimes also claims that the new tablet will be unveiled at the Macworld conference -- a show that Apple hasn't attended since 2009.
That said, this particular report could be on the money. Sharp suited up for TV-sized IGZO screen production last spring and could easily adapt the production line to smaller screen sizes. The technology provides image quality on par with the Retina displays using lightly modified equipment for making lower-quality amorphous TFT LCD screens.
Low-cost but high-quality gear like that is right up Apple's Infinite Loop. The display assembly is by far the most expensive component in today's iPads, so any opportunity to save a buck while juicing the quality should be welcome.
Moreover, a 10-inch IGZO screen is said to use less power than traditional LCDs. Apple absolutely loves bragging about battery life.
And if DigiTimes doesn't float your boat, The Wall Street Journal also says that Sharp is paking next-generation iPad screens in its Kameyama 2 factory. That just happens to be the exact factory that Sharp converted to IGZO manufacturing a few months ago.
It's all coming together. Even the purported release date might be right, though Tim Cook would probably throw his own shindig to launch the tablet rather than genuflecting at the Macworld Expo.
Whenever it launches and whatever's inside it, the iPad 3 should help Cupertino impress my friends even further. But it's not the only top-notch portfolio play in the mobile market today. Check out three ideas for 2012 that are set to soar whether Apple kills Android or the other way around.