According to a Citi analyst, Apple is prepping a next-generation iPad - likely called an iPad 3 - for a February release.
Such a device would be similar to the iPad 2, but include Apple's high-resolution retina display technology found on the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S by doubling the iPad 3's screen resolution, said analyst Richard Gardner in a research note first reported on by Business Insider and PCMag.
Gardner reportedly said that "several sources" told him that Apple could launch the iPad 3 as early as February, which would put its debut ahead of the first two generations of Apple's tablet.
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The first iPad hit stores in April 2010 after being unveiled the month before, and the iPad 2 was unveiled and released in March 2011.
The analyst also said that "there do not appear to be any significant technical hurdles remaining" to prevent the launch of a high-resolution iPad, which contradicts previous reports that fitting such a dense screen into an Apple tablet was one of the reasons Apple iPad 2 maintained the 1024 x 768 resolution of the first iPad.
Both the first iPad and iPad 2 displays have a pixel density of 132 pixels per inch (or ppi).
Apple's iPhone 4 and 4S have what is classified as a retina display, with a resolution of 960 x 640 resolution, and a 326 ppi. Any display with a ppi of 300 or greater is said be so dense that pixels are indistinguishable from each other to the human eye at a distance of about 10 to 12 inches (25.4cm to 30.48cm) - and thus, those displays can be dubbed retina displays.
Tablets with higher screen resolution have been released by Apple rivals and more are on the way, but nothing close to a retina display tablet has surfaced yet - though Samsung has been working on it for months.
Among the most anticipated iPad competitors coming soon is the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime, which features a screen resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels.
Gardner also estimated that Apple would sell about 12 million to 13 million iPads in the final three months of this year.
The major sales competitor to Apple's iPad is widely considered the Amazon Kindle Fire in the US, which boasts much lower specs than iPads and Eee Pads. The research firm IHS iSuppli has estimated that Amazon will ship about 3.9 million Kindle Fire tablets before the end of the year.
In the past, Apple normally released new generations of its products about a year apart, though the iPad 2 did arrive 11 months after the first iPad, and recently the tech giant waited 16 months before releasing the iPhone 4S after the iPhone 4.
Apple is currently the leading tablet seller worldwide, with an estimated 65 per cent share of the market.
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