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Next-generation iPad rumored to be in production for March release

It's January, and that means it's time to ramp up the iPad rumors to full frenzy mode. Japanese rumor site Macotakara, which has been surprisingly accurate when it comes to speculation about upcoming iPads, says that the next-generation iPad is now in production in anticipation of a release in March, 2012.

Macotakara's sources in China say that Foxconn and Pegatron will share production of the new iPad, with Foxconn grabbing a full 85 percent of the orders. The site says that the initial devices will be outfitted with Sharp LCD display panels, allowing 2048 x 1536 resolution without adding weight and thickness to the iPad. As you can see above, the Macotakara has also been accumulating images from Chinese sources of what appear to be replacement parts for the next-generation iPad.

The report from Japan also includes design teasers that are in line with what iLounge's Jeremy Horwitz was stating this week -- the device is visually similar to the iPad 2, and the Smart Cover and other accessories should work with the new iPad. Horwitz reportedly saw an next-generation iPad prototype just before CES, noting that the new device is about 1 mm thicker than the iPad 2 and has a slightly larger opening for the rear camera lens. Horwitz revealed the design of the iPad 2 last year through a similar encounter, so there could be some validity to this rumor.

Horwitz also noted that the prototype he saw could be as much as six months old, so the design could have changed prior to going into production. Speculation about what's under the glass and aluminum of the new device is rampant, with a quad-core A6 being seen as a possibility to power the next iPad. GigaOM's Darrell Etherington even wondered if the device might be given the "iPad 2S" moniker, indicating big changes inside with few cosmetic differences from the iPad 2.

What do you think about these rumors? Would the addition of a quad-core chip make you upgrade from your existing iPad? We want to hear your opinions in the comments.

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