iPad Refresh Due in First Quarter of 2011

Despite denials and contrary rumors, it seems that Apple is on schedule to release a new version of the wildly successful iPad just about a year after it unveiled the first version of the tablet.

Some Taiwan-based component suppliers to Apple revealed today that they're expecting to start shipments for the iPad at the beginning of next year, according to DigiTimes, a trade publication based on that island nation. That shipping schedule indicates that Apple plans to stick to its normal product refresh cycle and announce a new iPad at the end of next year's first quarter.

The publication reported that four iPad suppliers--TPK Touch Solutions, Wintek, Cando, and Chimel Innolux--were in the process of completing validation by Apple for ultra-thin, glass-based touch panels. Those 9.7-inch panels may mean that the next version of the iPad will lose some girth in its next incarnation.

Just a week ago a report based on a conversation with an Apple insider said that the company was considering releasing in time for the holidays a new version of the iPad, with a video camera and support for its video-conferencing-over-WiFi software, FaceTime. "A version of the tablet device with a built-in video camera and support for the new FaceTime video conferencing standard has already progressed to the advanced testing stages, according to a person with proven knowledge of Apple's future product plans," reported Apple Insider.

The publication also noted that "although Apple's historical product cycles would beg to differ, that person familiar with the company's plans claims that as of last month, there was an ambitious push inside Apple to verify the refresh for a possible launch ahead of this year's holiday shopping season."

With all these rumors swirling around about the release of the second generation iPad, one has to wonder how they will impact the sales of Apple's other products. Will consumers wowed by FaceTime and video shooting and editing capabilities on the new iPod Touch, for instance, delay purchasing that device in anticipation of buying a new iPad with a spacious screen that will make those apps shine even more?

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