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Rumor: Apple's iPad 3 going into full production?

Even as Apple begins to sell the iPhone 4S around the world today, the company is likely already preparing to launch its next major product.

That device is almost certainly the iPad 3, the next version of its tablet product that has spawned a lot of copy-cats from Samsung, Motorola, RIM, and more. Now, AllThingsD.com reports that the iPad 3 might be moving into full production mode.

The report comes from Susquehanna Financial analyst Jeff Fidacaro who claims that Apple has increased the number of iPads that it is making in the current fourth quarter of 2011. The new estimates are between 12 and 14 million unit which is higher than previous estimates of between 11 million and 13 million iPad units.

Fidacaro claims that increase is due to Apple ramping up production of the iPad 3, saying, "Since our last month supply chain checks we are now seeing 600,000 to one million iPad 3 builds showing up on the plan for the fourth quarter of calendar 2011 Our previous estimate did not include any iPad 3s." It's possible that the iPad 3 could launch in March 2012, a year after the iPad 2.

Most speculation on the iPad 3's hardware centers on a faster processor, possibly quad-core, along with a higher resolution display. However, the size of the iPad 3 is expected to remain the same. New rumors hit this week claiming that Apple might also launch a cheaper iPad in 2012, possibly to compete with Amazon's $199 seven inch Kindle Fire tablet.

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