Apple will fire the first shot in the 2012 super-tablet battle with Google and Microsoft March 7 as it finally releases the iPad 3. It's now rumored to be going on sale March 16, and we're guessing it will be $500 for the 16 gigabyte Wi-Fi version. Furthermore, anonymous sources are saying iPad 3 will feature an advanced dual-core processor with an improved graphics processor and more system memory (RAM), according to tech blog The Verge.

This is welcome news for Apple fans because now it will be up to the various Android tablets and their quad-core processors to see if they can take down the tablet king. Once Microsoft goes live with Windows 8, however, the era of the super-tablet will really take off. All the people out there who've never owned a tablet (or smartphone for that matter) will now be able to get one that runs the same system as their PC. Nearly one-third of the U.S. population will own a tablet computer by 2016, new Forrester Research analysis says. That means the tablet wars will only get more intense as the amounts of money climb higher and higher.

If the iPad 3 is indeed a 9.7-inch device like the iPad 2, both Google and Microsoft will be in a position to attack the iPad Amazon Kindle Fire style. They can build seven-inch tablets costing around $200, but still including the features people want; the apps. Google has already started addressing this with the launch of Google Play, the formerly named Android Market. It's now the home to apps, movies, and books that should be a simple gateway for Google Nexus tablet users (once Google actually builds one). At that point, we'll have new operating system updates from Google and Apple, and they'll battle Windows 8. Apple has a tremendous head start, but we'll find out March 7 how big of a lead they really have. Tell us in the comments if you think Google or Microsoft has any chance at all against the iPad.

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