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Thursday, December 08, 2011, 04:08 pm PT (07:08 pm ET)

Apple's third-gen iPad rumored to arrive in February 2012

Rumors of a new iPad continue to grow, with Citigroup now saying Apple's next-generation tablet device is on schedule for a February, 2012 launch.

In a research note released on Thursday, Citigroup analyst Richard Gardner says that Apple will be ready to debut the next iteration of the company's hugely successful tablet as early as February, reports Business Insider.

Gardner notes that sources within Apple's Asian supply chain have seen increased iPad parts orders for the March quarter, attributing the ramp-up to the "launch of a new iPad with double the screen resolution on the current model."

The analyst cites several sources who have confirmed the early 2012 launch, and notes that "there do not appear to be any significant technical hurdles remaining" to meet a February release date.

Rumors have been swirling as to when an anticipated "Retina Display" iPad will break cover, with some alleging that Apple has seen technical setbacks in combining high-resolution panels with LED backlighting. Reports have claimed that the company will employ a dual-LED lighting system to overcome brightness issues seen by the high-dpi displays, which a November rumor indicated as possibly being IGZO panels sourced from Sharp.

The most recent rumors have come from an Asian supplier saying that the new tablet will sport a thicker case design than the iPad 2, but will retain the same 9.7-inch screen size allowing it to be compatible with existing Smart Covers.