DigiTimes claims that the Cupertino, Calif., company's manufacturing partners have already begun delivering parts and components for the third-generation iPad to OEM contractors while preparing to draw down production of the iPad 2, according to its sources.
The report went on to note that OEM production of the iPad 2 is expected to remain steady at 14-15 million units in the December quarter, before declining to 4-5 million units in the first quarter of 2012. Sources said production of the so-called iPad 3 will reach 9.5-9.8 million units next quarter.
China's Commercial Times has reported Citigroup analyst Kevin Chang as saying that Foxconn will begin producing the device in January ahead of large-scale production in February.
The firm also recently claimed that the third-gen iPad will arrive in February, a month earlier than DigiTimes' reported timeline. Analyst Richard Gardner said sources had indicated there were no "significant technical hurdles remaining" for the device.
Apple has thus far preferred to release previous generations of the iPad in the spring. The original iPad was announced in January 2010 and launched in April. The second-generation iPad was announced in March of this year and shipped later that month.
The next-generation iPad is widely believed to include a display with Retina Display-like quality. The Wall Street Journal reported last month that Apple has invested in a Sharp factory for production of LCD panels for the next iPad. Those panels have been rumored to utilize IGZO (indium, gallium, zinc) technology to help provide a thinner design while improving battery life.
A recent report out of Japan claimed the iPad 3 may actually be slightly thicker than the current-generation iPad 2, though the reason for the purported increase remains unknown. The device will, however, reportedly still be compatible with Apple's Smart Cover.