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Tuesday, February 22, 2011, 09:50 pm PT (12:50 am ET)

Apple's iPad 2 supply chain on track despite supply constraints, analyst says

In spite of delayed shipments of display panels for the second-generation iPad, Apple's update to its touchscreen tablet remains "on the rails" as a refresh nears, according to a check by one analyst.

Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of Concord Securities has informed AppleInsider that the next iPad is "likely near launch date" based on his checks with supply chain sources.

Kuo estimates that Apple partner Foxconn plans to make 4.5 to 5 million iPad 2 units in the first quarter of 2011 and 3 to 4 million units in April. By way of comparison, Apple produced 3 to 4 million units of the original iPad ahead of last year's launch in April, the analyst said.

According to Kuo, the supply chain is mostly on track for a possible "late April or early May" launch, though a shipment of display panels has been delayed. Kuo sees the delay as unlikely to significantly affect the timeline for the launch of the next iPad, however, as LG Display and Samsung can meet 75 to 80 percent of Apple's needs.

Kuo's research has previously suggested that the upgraded iPad 2 display will focus on "thickness and anti-reflection," rather than an increase in resolution. The next iPad is also expected to be thinner and lighter with more RAM, a faster CPU and faster graphics processor.

Limited manufacturing rates and prohibitive costs of a double resolution IPS panel with fringe-field switching technology will prevent Apple from improving the resolution for the iPad 2, but the display could make its way into a subsequent update, Kuo said in an earlier report.

After a pair of reports suggesting that Apple was experiencing delays in its second-generation iPad and fifth-generation iPhone spooked investors on Tuesday, countering reports cited their own sources and deemed the rumors of a delay false.

Kara Swisher of All Things D went so far as to set a date of Wednesday, March 2 for a special event unveiling the iPad 2.

For more information on the upcoming iPad 2, see AppleInsider's information archive.