Apple (AAPL) is expected to release three versions of iPad 2, supporting either or a combination of Wi-Fi, UMTS and CDMA, for 2011 with mass production to start as early as the latter half of January.

Cupertino, California-based Apple will ship about 500,000-530,000 units to channels in January with shipment ratio of Wi-Fi, UMTS and CDMA models at 3:4:3, Digitimes reported citing industry sources.

Digitimes, citing sources, said about 60-65 percent of current iPad shipments are 3G models, indicating that consumers prefer models that are able to connect to the Internet all the time. As a result, Apple is aiming to work even more closely with telecom carriers by offering more wireless solutions for iPad 2 to satisfy market demand.

Apart from wireless functions, Apple is also working on strengthening the iPad 2's anti-smudge and anti-reflective treatments in order to compete against Kindle and attract more consumers, the sources noted.

Since Apple's upstream supply chain is estimated to ship about 16 million iPads in 2010, the sources expects about 2-3 million iPad units of inventory will remain in the channel rolling over into 2011.

Since Apple will gradually stop the production of iPad after January and launch iPad 2 by the end of the first quarter or the beginning of the second, the remaining iPad inventory should be able to satisfy demand during that period of time.

As for iPad 2, the sources estimate that the device's shipments in 2011 will reach 40 million units, accounting for 65-75 percent of the global tablet PC market.

Separately, Digitimes said Apple have placed orders for 65 million 9.7-inch iPad displays.

Shipments of 9.7-inch iPad panels from LG Display reached 1.5 million units in November 2010, and fellow supplier Samsung Electronics' shipments reached 1.2 million units for the month.

LG Display is estimated to land orders for 35 million iPad panels in 2011, with Samsung and Chimei Innolux (CMI), who is scheduled to join Apple's iPad supply chain in the first quarter of 2011, will each receive orders for 15 million units.

Based on these estimates, iPad panel shipments (including first and second generation models) will reach 65 million units in 2011, which is significantly higher than market estimates of 45-48 million units for the year.

Market players noted that the 65 million unit shipment goal indicates that Apple is very optimistic about the tablet PC market in 2011, and it may also mean that Apple is overbooking panel capacity.

Taiwan suppliers supply all touch panel modules for iPads, and touch panel shipments for iPads are expected to reach 16.76 million units in 2010. Including other tablet PC products, touch panel shipments from Taiwan are estimated to reach 66.38 million units in 2013, according to Digitimes Research.

Several speculations hovering around Apple's next-generation tablet computer iPad2. The next-generation iPad, or iPad 2, is said to have a flat back, smaller bezel and a wide-range speaker, according to a Japanese blog MacOctakara citing anonymous Chinese source. For full story, please (click here)

The iPad is a tablet computer designed and developed by Apple. It is particularly marketed as a platform for audio and visual media such as books, periodicals, movies, music, and games, as well as web content.

Apple released the iPad in April 2010, and sold 3 million of the devices in 80 days. For the recently concluded third quarter, Apple sold 4.19 million iPads.

At about 1.5 pounds (680 grams), its size and weight are between those of most contemporary smartphones and laptop computers.

Like iPhone and iPod Touch, the iPad is controlled by a multitouch display - a break from most previous tablet computers, which used a pressure-triggered stylus. The iPad's touchscreen display is a 9.7 in (25 cm) liquid crystal display (1024 × 768 pixels) with fingerprint-resistant and scratch-resistant glass.

The iPad uses a Wi-Fi data connection to browse the Internet, load and stream media, and install software. Some models also have a 3G wireless data connection which can connect to GSM 3G data networks.

The device is managed and synced by iTunes on a personal computer via USB cable.

The price of iPad, which comes with 16GB, 32GB and 64 GB storage, starts at $499 for a 16GB Wi-Fi version.