Trial production of the iPad 3 has reportedly begun, with an aim to launch Apple's next-generation iPad tablet in early 2012.

Sources familiar with the situation told the Wall Street Journal that Apple has ordered chips, display panels and other key components for the iPad 3. small quantities of components have been shipped for the tablet's sampling.

According to suppliers, the California-based technology giant has placed orders for a 9.7-inch screen device. The iPad 3 is expected to feature a high resolution Retina display of 2048 by 1536 pixels, double the resolution of the existent iPad.  A Retina display would provide a wider viewing angle with a clearer display in direct sunlight.

Suppliers will ramp up production and try to improve the yield rate for the new iPad in the fourth quarter before its official launch in early 2012, a soruce told the Journal. One component supplier estimated that as many as 1.5 million iPad 3s are to be developed in the fourth quarter as Apple runs production into next year.

While the official launch of the iPad 3 is said to be early 2012, Apple has not confirmed the existence and plan of its next generation iPad, 

Earlier rumors suggest that the iPad 3 will come with an enhanced superior display, front and rear camera with flash, Quad-Core processor, a zippy processor, and iOS 5.

Other rumored features of the next iPad include a Thunderbolt port (that will make data flow and connectivity lightning fast), Wireless synchronization (user are expecting to finally bid adieu to the traditional wired connections).

A new SD card slot will also be expected which was previously absent in iPad 2. If rumors are to be believed then Apple will also introduce 3D to its upcoming tablet.

Apple's iPad 2 was released in March, just 15 months after its first-generation iPad. The iPad 2 sales has not yet slowed down, giving ample time for Apple to prepare the next iPad to keep Android under its feet.

While Android is a major player in the tablet market, they are yet to give tough competition for Apple. Apple's features are extensively varied from Android or WebOS or QNX which means loyal Apple fan base remains the same.