Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s next iPad, expected to go on sale in March, will sport a high-definition screen, run a faster processor and work with next-generation wireless networks, according to three people familiar with the product.
The company’s manufacturing partners in Asia started ramping up production of the iPad 3 this month and plan to reach full volumes by February, said one of the people, who asked not to be named because the details aren’t public. The tablet will use a quad-core chip, an enhancement that lets users jump more quickly between applications, two of the people said.
Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook is counting on the new model to ward off mounting competition in a market that Apple pioneered two years ago. After its debut in 2010, the iPad emerged as the company’s second-biggest source of revenue -- after the iPhone -- and inspired rival products from Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) and Samsung (005930) Electronics Co. Apple has sold more than 40 million iPads, generating at least $25.3 billion in sales.
Natalie Kerris, a spokeswoman for Apple, said the company doesn’t comment on rumor and speculation.
The Cupertino, California-based company has been working on making the iPad compatible with a wireless standard called long- term evolution, or LTE, said one of the people. Carriers such as Verizon Wireless (VZ) and ATT Inc. (T) are rolling out LTE networks to give users faster access to data.
Smartphone makers, including Samsung, Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. (MMI) and Nokia Oyj (NOKIA), have already introduced smartphones that work on the faster networks. Apple is bringing LTE to the iPad before the iPhone because the tablet has a bigger battery and can better support the power requirements of the newer technology, said one of the people.
The new display is capable of greater resolution than the current iPad, with more pixels on its screen than some high- definition televisions, the person said. The pixels are small enough to make the images look like printed material, according to the person. Videos begin playing almost instantly because of the additional graphics processing, the person said.
The new iPad is being assembled by Apple’s main manufacturing partner, Foxconn Technology Group. Like most technology companies, Apple contracts with companies in Asia for labor to assemble its devices. Foxconn, which also builds the iPhone and other Apple products, gets about 22 percent of its sales from Apple, according to supply-chain data compiled by Bloomberg.
Mass production began at the start of this month, with factories running 24 hours a day in China, one of the people said. Manufacturing will halt over China’s Lunar New Year holiday this month and then ramp back up to a peak in February, the person said.
The introduction of the new iPad will be Apple’s first major hardware release since the death of company co-founder Steve Jobs in October. The company is hosting an education event focused on electronic textbooks next week that won’t include any hardware introductions, said a person familiar with the matter.
Apple, the world’s largest technology company by market value, was little changed yesterday in U.S. trading at $419.81. The stock rose 26 percent in 2011, marking its third straight year of gains.
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