A new report from Apple's Asian supply chain said the tech giant will release a next-generation iPad 3 featuring a full HD display in March, as well as another iPad component suppliers call iPad 4 in October. In line with previous reports, the iPad 3 will double its pixel density from the iPad 2 as well as the battery life. The iPad 2's battery lasts only 10 hours.

The iPad 3 will come with a QXGA (2048 x 1536 pixels) display and longer battery life, although its other hardware specifications may not be so amazing as expected, sources said.

The report may be contributing to a jump in Apple shares so that they are only slightly below their all-time high of $426.70 set just before fourth-quarter results were announced in October. In midmorning, the shares were at $420.83, up $2.80.

Apple is reportedly dissatisfied with the single LED backlight bar designed for the iPad 2's 1024 x 768 resolution display, and the company hopes to improve this feature in the iPad 3. Of all of the ideas pitched, Apple is reportedly leaning towards an option involving dual-LED light bars inside the iPad 3, one on the left and one on the right. Apple's foreign supply chain says the company is very interested in this option, now that the manufacturers of LED back-light units have reportedly solved several puzzles involving heat dissipation and battery consumption. These LED issues had reportedly affected the launch schedule of the iPad 3.

Earlier reports said Apple's next iPad would feature a new A6 chip, a quad-core processor expected to double the power and speed of the A5 chip currently found in the iPad 2 and iPhone 4S. The chip would help the iPad achieve greater processing for the sake of its enhanced QXGA display.

Even if the iPad 3 doesn't feature much more than an improved screen and battery, Apple will reportedly take advantage of the iPad 3 launch to slash the price of its iPad 2 to US$399,  a report said. Apple currently sells the iPad 2 at a base price of $499.

Apple, based in Cupertino, Calif., has strived to bring high technology to the masses. In the fourth quarter,  Apple lowered the price of its high-end iPhone 4 to $99, and made its two-year-old iPhone 3GS model free with a two-year contract. By lowering the price of its older iPad models, Apple competes with the lower-priced tablets from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Samsung and Sony, among others.

The report also mentions that competition in the segment may continue to heat up in the second quarter of 2012, as Google reportedly may also launch an own-brand tablet PC in April, competing with the Kindle Fire in the entry-level segment. Not much is known about Google's secretive tablet, other than it will likely run the latest version of Android's mobile operating system, Ice Cream Sandwich. Google chairman Eric Schmidt hinted at the Google tablet when speaking to an Italian newspaper on Dec. 20.

In the next six months we plan to market a tablet of the highest quality, Schmidt said.

The reports also claimed Apple will release a second tablet in October 2012, which is said to be a 9.7-inch iPad 4. The device will reportedly come with killer applications, upgraded hardware specs throughout the device, and integrated applications so as to compete with an array of Android-, Wintel- or WoA (Windows on ARM)-based tablet PCs.

Older reports from the supply chain said Apple was building a 7.85-inch iPad, which would compete with the similarly-sized e-reader tablets from Amazon (Kindle Fire) and Barnes & Noble (Nook Tablet). That iPad was said to be released towards the end of 2012.

On Thursday, iLounge editor-in-chief Jeremy Howitz tweeted details about a next-gen iPad from what he believed were reliable sources. He said the next iPad will feature a much-improved camera system, including a backside camera that can shoot in 1080p HD like the iPhone 4S and a frontside HD camera for better Facetime. He did not say whether this was the iPad 3, iPad 4, or something in between.

Code for the iPad 3 was discovered in November when Apple released its iOS 5.1 beta update to developers, which accidentally revealed references to a next- generation iPhone and two next-gen iPads, internally named iPhone 5,1, iPad 2,4 and iPad 3,3, respectively. Analysts believe the iPad listed as iPad 2,4 is not a new iPad, but rather an upgraded iPad 2 with WiMAX functionality, possibly powered by Sprint. This could in fact be the iPad slated for March, while the iPad 3,3, which is believed to be a completely new device, could be the iPad 4 coming in October. 

Apple sold 32.1 million iPads in the fiscal year ended Sept. 24. The company will release the results of its first fiscal quarter on Jan. 24.

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