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iPad 2As if you needed further evidence that rumors of a new iPad this fall are defunct, Apple has apparently begun trial production of a next-gen iPad targeted for an early 2012 release, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Sources within the iPad manufacturing supply chain told the WSJ that Apple has placed orders for a 9.7-inch screen for its new tablet, the same as the iPad 1 and iPad 2. The sources didn’t confirm whether the iPad 3 would sport a higher resolution Retina Display (thought to be around 2048 by 1536 pixels, four times the low 1024-by-768 resolution of previous iPads), but it seems very likely at this point.

Earlier this week, a report claimed that Apple had delayed plans for a fall iPad 3 release because of production issues with the Retina Display screen. Apple never admitted to working on a new iPad for this fall, but plenty of rumors throughout the year pointed to it.

One supplier told the WSJ that Apple has placed parts orders for around 1.5 million iPad 3s for the fourth quarter.

An early 2012 release would put the iPad 3 on track with the typical release cycle Apple has been following with past iPads. The iPad 2 was released in March this year, and the iPad 1 was available in April 2010 (after taking pre-orders in March). A fall release could have worked out well for Apple, though, since it would have had a new model to promote for the holiday season. For now, it seems Apple will be focusing its holiday marketing push on the iPhone 5, which is expected to be announced next month.

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