The Apple iPad 3 release date rumor mill is grinding, hard, as anticipation grows about what the next version of the world's bestselling tablet looks like and what features it may have.

Starting with the release date: some reports suggest February, but reason based on facts and history suggest production will begin in January and Apple will unveil the product in early or mid-March, with release to quickly follow. Either way, unless Apple hits a major hitch in the road, keeping with its fairly predictable pattern that only swings mildly one way or another, we'll get the iPad 3 in the first half of 2012.

As for features, don't count on the iPad 3 to be transparent and rimless. That was just just a rumor -- albeit an entertaining one -- spawned by a concept video circulating (see below) that someone reportedly named Dakota Adney put together. The real innovation is just that -- the creative video. But no bona fide Apple expert under the sun thinks the iPad 3 will be released with such a radical design. 

Nobody doubts that Apple has toyed around with such designs. Apple has certainly looked at all kinds of designs, but transparent and rimless is too drastic of a transformation considering the company is already pushing its manufacturing base to the edge trying to keep up with demand for the world's best-selling tablet.

A Better Camera

So don't hold your breath on transparent and rimless. It might be a while. Realistically, Citi analyst Richard Gardner, who keeps a close and respectable eye on Apple, said in a note this week to investors that the iPad 3 will have double the screen resolution that previous models, and it should be out earlier than later in 2012.

There do not appear to be any significant technical hurdles remaining, he wrote.

The iPad 3 is also likely to have a new camera, as Apple seems to like upping the camera ante on its popular iPad and iPhone products. The iPad 2 has two cameras, but one analyst suggests they could be better.

Both cameras on the iPad 2 are horrible, wrote Eric Zeman at Information Week. Sure, they work for FaceTime and such, but the results are pitiful. While tablets are still unwieldy for taking pictures, most of the competition is fielding tablets with 3- and 5-megapixel cameras. I don't imagine I'll be using a tablet for most photo-taking needs, but having a decent one on board wouldn't hurt.

The iPad 3 design could take a different turn from Apple's first two models. But that remains to be seen. Some suggest it could be thicker, to handle a larger battery and able to handle 4G LTE compatibility that many think is forthcoming. While competitive products like the Amazon Kindle Fire are smaller, the late Apple co-founder and longtime CEO Steve Jobs had gone on record before saying he didn't think tablets should be smaller.

Thicker, Perhaps

Granted, Jobs is no longer in charge, but his words will likely ring through and true to Apple for a very long time. So bigger, or thicker, for more functionality makes more sense than smaller.

Among the more interesting rumors is that all the talk about the iPad 3 won't hurt Apple's holiday sales of the iPad 2. Gene Munster, senior research analyst at Piper Jaffray, who also knows a thing or two about Apple, predicts the company will sell 13.5 million iPads in December, an 84 percent over the same period the year before. It costs more than doubled the Kindle Fire, but Munster said Apple is high on wish lists, despite the price.

And several months later, the iPad 3 will likely be out -- similar to the iPad 2 but with better screen resolution, a better camera, a better battery, more memory and other new or enhanced features.