Apple Preps iPad3 With Retina Display

Apple looks to outpace competition by releasing an iPad with a high-resolution display in early 2012.
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Apple is expected to debut a new version of the iPad as soon as early 2012. Its chief improvement over the current hardware will be a vastly improved display, with double the resolution. The iPad 3 will have the same 9.7-inch dimensions, but pack in 2048 x 1536 pixels.

Citing people familiar with Apple's plans, the Wall Street Journal said that Apple has already rounded up component suppliers for the new tablet, seeking to commence production as soon as October. One such company has already indicated that Apple placed an order for 1.5 million iPad 3s for delivery in the fourth quarter of 2011.

"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," said an unnamed source at the supplier.

Apple set the pace for the tablet industry when it launched the iPad in the second quarter of 2010, and followed it up with the iPad 2 less than a year later. While the iPad 2 made some improvements over the original, it didn't update the display significantly, which was one of the chief complaints about the device. (Not that the iPad's display is bad, mind you, but many were hoping for an update to match the iPhone 4's retina display.)

Apple didn't comment on the Journal's report.

While Apple still leads the tablet space with an 80% grip on the market, Android tablets are beginning to take a bite out of Apple's presence. Android devices have scored as much as 20% of the tablet market during 2011, with the RIM PlayBook earning an unknown percentage.

Despite Apple's lead, it needs to provide some significant new features in the next version of the iPad 3 if it wishes to stay ahead of the pack. For example, Samsung has made a 4G version of the Galaxy Tab ready for Verizon Wireless. The iPad 2 is limited to 3G wireless data speeds. In addition to an improved display, it would behoove Apple to add support for 4G, such as LTE or HSPA+ Category 14, to the next version of the iPad to stay ahead.

Other improvements might include better cameras, as the iPad 2's cameras are of poor quality. Revved up processors, better graphics support, more memory and storage, and other under-the-hood improvements could make the iPad 3 a category killer.

The speed with which Apple is introducing updates to its tablet hardware underscores how important it believes the tablet space is to its business. It has taken extreme measures to battle competitors such as Samsung in court, seeking to block the Korean company from importing its tablet device not only in the United States, but across Europe as well.

Apple may have one less competitor to worry about now that HP has dropped out of the tablet race, but it can't afford to wait for its rivals to catch up, or worse, surpass it with features and performance.

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