IPad 3 headed to production, expect iPad mini, analysts say

Lest tablet enthusiasts get jealous of the iPhone 5 rumors that are already floating around, there’s also some speculation out there about the iPad 3.

First up is a whisper about iPad 3 production from Susquehanna Financial Group analyst Jeffrey Fidacaro. All Things Digital reported that the analyst has increased his estimates for iPad builds to account for an early run of the next-generation tablet.

Others are predicting that Apple is working on an “iPad mini.” A report from the Taiwan United Daily News spurred speculation that Apple is playing around with the idea of introducing a 7.35-inch tablet. That seems somewhat unlikely as the company’s late co-founder, Steve Jobs, dismissed the form factor, saying once in an earnings call that 7-inch tablets should come with sandpaper so that users can sand down their fingers to use them. Still, with the 7-inch Amazon Kindle Fire coming soon, Apple may want to offer a little more direct competition to stay at the top of the tablet market.

Another analyst, Brian White of Ticonderoga, suggests that the “mini” may be referring to the price tag, Boy Genius Report noted, which he said could be in the “mid-to-high $200 range.” That would also put Apple in a better position to solidify its market lead as it faces competition from Android tablets. The iPad is likely to hold onto the high-end of the tablet market, but a low-cost competitor certainly couldn’t hurt.

Apple sold over 11 million iPad units this past quarter, despite missing analyst expectations with its earnings report Tuesday. Lower iPhone sales pulled down Apple’s results overall, but iPad sales topped 10 million for the first time since the product was launched. Apple CEO Tim Cook even said that the iPad may be cannibalizing Mac sales — though he couldn’t resist getting in a dig at the competition by saying again that iPad sales are likely affecting Windows computer sales more than Macs.

The company, which is normally conservative with its earnings estimates, is clearly confident moving forward, putting out guidance that it expects to make $37 billion in revenue in the next quarter for earnings per share of $9.30.

Related stories:

Apple stores to shut down for Jobs tribute

Apple misses quarterly sales; disappoints for the first time in years

Steve Jobs’s death leaves Apple facing challenges

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.

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