Apple Inc. had a busy year in 2011. Most of it was good. Some of it was a matter of life, and death.

The company gave birth to the iPad 2 and iPhone 4S, among other products. It also put co-founder and longtime CEO Steve Jobs to rest in a company-wide memorial service. Apple made headlines for having more money than the federal government. And, Apple vigorously, if not over-aggressively according to some defended its turf through patent litigation.

But 2012 promises to be another year of promising, if not exciting developments for Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) and CEO Tim Cook, the man who replaced Jobs. Apple has the world's bestselling tablet, the iPad, and the bestselling smartphone, the iPhone, and the company wants to keep it that way.

Thus, eyes heading into 2012 are cast upon the anticipated iPad 3 release date and features and the iPhone 5 release date and features. Speculation has run far and wide, with one suggesting in a creative video that the iPad 3 will be transparent and rimless, though that's not likely. Others have speculated that the iPhone 5 release date will be March 2012, and that's not likely either. Here's a rundown of what we can expect from Apple in 2012 in regard to the iPad 3, another iPad product, and the iPhone 5:

iPad 3, iPad Mini

Talk has focused on the iPad 3, and that is likely coming by the end of the first quarter of 2012. It won't be a radical new design, yet keeping in Apple's tradition it will be a better product that many will wan to get their hands on. Expect much better cameras, a better battery, Siri, screen resolution that is perhaps two times better, and 4G LTE compatibility.

And, while the iPad 3 design won't be radically different, some suggest it could be thicker, to handle a larger battery and able to handle the 4G LTE compatibility.

But Apple apparently has more in store with its iPad lineup in 2012, as the company is expected to release an iPad Mini by the fourth quarter of 2012, according to a report. DigiTimes reports that Apple will release the anticipated iPad 3 at the end of the first quarter of 2012 and follow that up a new mini iPad before the fourth quarter of 2012. The news site reports the mini iPad will have a 7.85-inch touchscreen, according to sources in the supply chain.

Apple's iPad, launched in 2010, is the global leader, but Amazon's new Kindle Fire tablet has been gaining ground since launching in November. Price is one advantage, considering the Kindle Fire pricing starts at $199 while iPad pricing starts at $499. But size also seems to be an advantage, according to reviews. The Kindle Fire has a 7-inch touchscreen, while the iPad has a 10-inch touchscreen.

However, in order to cope with increasing market competition including the 7-inch Kindle Fire from Amazon and the launch of large-size smartphones from handset vendors, Apple has been persuaded into the development of 7.85-inch iPads, the sources indicated, according to DigiTimes.

The iPhone 5

Many thought, and hoped, that Apple would deliver the iPhone 5 in the last quarter of 2012, but that didn't happen. It is close behind, however, according to indications. While some reports have suggested Apple could release the iPhone 5 in the first quarter of 2012, the company is likely to return to its summer release date,abandoned for the iPhone 4S as the apparently company worked out some kinks with its new Siri voice assistant.

That will require a few months more of waiting, but the iPhone 5 should not disappoint when it finally arrives. Expect the iPhone 5 to come with a larger 4-inch screen, a new, improved Siri voice assistant, 4G LTE compatibility, a better battery, a quad-core processor, and a different form factor, likely that's made of metal.

Other developments expected from Apple in 2012:

Jobs has been synoymous with Apple, and that won't change in 2012, or in Apple's history perhaps. Think Henry Ford and Ford Motor Company. But it's likely that new CEO Tim Cook will take a larger stage in the media in 2012, to help stamp the new leadership era of Apple firmly. He'll have to take a second row seat during the iPhone 5 release, of course, said to be Jobs' last big project he worked on.

Cook won't mind, however, considering it is likely to be Apple's bestselling smartphone version ever by a long shot.

Also, look for Apple to continue making acquisitions, like the recent report it's considering buying Anaboit, the Israeli flash storage solutions provider, for $500 million. That would make Apple's biggest acquisition ever, but it won't be the company's last, as Jobs made clear before his death the company was piling up more than $80 billion in cash through 2011 to be nimble for such buys in the future.

Among Apple's acquisition targets are likely companies with proprietary products that Apple can use and more quickly advance to fuel its hardware development, and perhaps content distribution sources so it can continue to grow beyond music similar to iTunes.