Riding high on the iPad's sales success, Apple is reportedly ramping up a high rate of production for its next-generation tablet, according to DigiTimes.
"Apple's orders of iPad 2 are expected to top six million units a month compared to a volume of four million units a quarter for the current version," reads a Dec. 16 posting on DigiTimes' Website, "pushing Apple to expand the number of touch panel suppliers." The publication quotes unnamed industry sources for the news.
That posting also refutes previous rumors of a 7-inch iPad in development: "Sources in Apple's supply chain in Taiwan claimed that they have not heard anything about orders for 7-inch touch panels." Those same sources suggest that Apple will begin receiving shipments in the January-February timeframe, which in turn would hint at an April launch for the next-generation iPad.
A Dec. 7 article from DigiTimes, sourcing unnamed "Taiwanese-based component makers," suggested that Apple's manufacturers would prep the iPad for shipment to Apple within the next 100 days.
Rumors about Apple's next tablet have increased in recent weeks. On Dec. 10, Reuters posted an article suggesting that front- and rear-facing camera modules will appear in the next iPad, along with a higher-resolution screen. "Another source said it would be slimmer, lighter and have a better resolution display than the first iPad," read that piece.
A number of analysts seem to believe that Apple will announce a new iPad in January, followed by an actual market appearance in April. That would mirror the schedule for the original iPad, which saw an unveiling and release in those respective timeframes in 2010.
On Dec. 9, the blog iLounge posted images of an alleged iPad case, produced by Chinese manufacturer Shenzhen MacTop Electronics, with a rear-facing camera hole and a slimmer body. That same way, the blog MacRumors posted another set of images, these of a supposed iPad case with holes for a rear-facing camera and possible SD card.
Although the iPad currently holds some 95.5 percent of the tablet market, according to research firm Strategy Analytics, any next-generation iPad will face substantially more competition in 2011 than its predecessor. A rising number of Android-based tablets, including the Samsung Galaxy Tab, threaten to carve their own market share. Meanwhile, both Research In Motion and Hewlett-Packard are preparing tablets with proprietary operating systems, while Microsoft executives suggest more Windows tablets will hit the market once Intel releases its "Oak Trail" atom processors in early 2011.