As more reports regarding Apple's forthcoming iPad 3 (including everything from its functionality to its shape and body) surface, the big question - the one in everybody's minds - concerns the date of the device's release.

Now, however, according to reports emerging from Taiwan, the Cupertino-based technology giant may launch the latest iPad somewhere in February next year. Taiwan-based Original Equipment Makers (OEM) and Original Design Makers (ODM) in Apple's supply chain are rumored to be preparing for the forthcoming release.

According to a report in Industry Leaders Magazine, OEM production of the iPad 2 will remain at 14-15 million units in the fourth quarter of the current year but the number will come down by about 10 million units to 4-5 million units in the first quarter of 2012.

The sudden and drastic decrease in iPad 2 OEM production surely indicates the arrival of the second generation tablet's successor in the market. The production volume for the iPad 3 will be in the 9.5-9.8 million unit range during the first quarter of next month, which gives strength to the rumors suggesting iPad 3's launch in the first quarter.

Apple has been maintaining a gap of 11 months between the launch of each of its two tablets - the iPad was released in April 2010 and the iPad 2 in March 2011. Analysts are, therefore, predicting the iPad 3's arrival in February 2012.

According to a Business Insider report, Citi analyst Richard Gardner, in his note to investors, hinted that the third generation iPad would come in February and will sport a screen that offers more than twice the resolution capacities of the iPad 2.

There do not appear to be any significant technical hurdles remaining, the report quoted Gardner as saying.

Although Apple is yet to confirm the release date, there could be another reason why the company's Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Tim Cook, would contemplate releasing the new iPad in February - Steve Jobs.

The company may look to pay tribute to its co-founder and former CEO, whose 57th birthday would have fallen on Feb. 24, 2012. This could be the next big day in Apple's calendar and the next big media event associated with a product launch, following the Oct. 4 launch of the iPhone 4S.