If Apple is to announce a next-generation iPad some time in the first quarter of next year, as they did with both the original iPad and iPad 2, components to build the device should be shipping to Apple’s contract manufacturers in Asia as we speak. According to a new report by Asian trade publication DigiTimes, Apple has tapped Samsung and Sharp for iPad 3 panels:

Samsung and Sharp already began shipping panels for the next-generation iPads to Apple in October, and Taiwan-based touch panel makers TPK Holding and Wintek will begin to ship touch panels for the new iPads to the supply chain in November-December

A CNET report last month suggested that iPad 3 could boast the rumored Retina Display with a 2048-by-1536 pixel resolution, provided Samsung and LG Display can produce them in large numbers. Apple is thought to be exploring a dual-LED light bar design for iPad 3 which should maintain or strengthen the brightness of the high-resolution panels. Be advised that DigiTimes has become notoriously unreliable lately. The publication recently called for two iPads next year, one a minor refresh with thinner design and better battery due in March and the other slated for the year’s end. The publication also touched on a recent claim that Apple cut holiday iPad orders by 25 percent, which caused quite a stir among industry watchers…

The company was apparently left with a stockpile of 4-5 million units of iPad 2 in the supply chain because it ordered parts and components for the production of 15-16 million iPads. Apple ended up selling 11.12 million iPads during the September quarter, so they had to tweak the manufacturing output a bit. This in turn affected projected iPad 2 panel shipments from Apple’s suppliers Samsung Electronics, LG Display and Chimei Innolux. This also tells us Apple should have plenty of iPads going into the Christmas shopping season. The reshuffling of iPad 2 inventories prompted J.P. Morgan’s Asia team to hit the panic button prematurely. They backpedalled soon thereafter, saying Apple was fine.

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