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Monday, January 16, 2012, 09:19 pm PT (12:19 am ET)

Suppliers rumored to ship 6M-7M next-gen iPad LCD panels this quarter

Apple's suppliers are reportedly scheduled to ship between six to seven million high-resolution panels for the next-generation iPad in the first quarter of 2012 as production ramps up ahead of an expected March launch.

According to a report from DigiTimes, Sharp and LG Display will serve as suppliers of 9.7-inch QXGA panels for the third-generation iPad, which is widely believed to feature double the resolution of its predecessor. Taiwan-based supply chain makers told the publication that shipments of the new panels will surpass those used in the iPad 2 by the second quarter of 2012.

Sources said one million of the high-resolution panels had been shipped to Apple in the fourth quarter, followed by six to seven million panels in the first quarter. According to the report, 10 million panels will be shipped in the third quarter of 2012.

Apple reportedly has been decreasing shipments of iPad 2 panels as it prepares for the transition to the so-called "iPad 3." Shipments of the current-generation panels are said to have reached a peak of 16 million in the third quarter of 2011 and were adjusted to 10 million in the fourth quarter. First quarter shipment numbers are expected to be in the range of seven to eight million units.

"Thus, the shipment volume of panels for use in the new version of iPad will surpass that of iPad 2 panels in the second quarter of 2012, the sources noted," the report read.

Tipsters went on to point out that an estimated 40 million panels for the new iPad will be supplied in 2012, compared to an estimated 25 million for the iPad 2 this year.

DigiTimes' claim that Sharp will serve as a panel supplier for Apple's third iPad has been disputed by some. A Korean newspaper asserted last week that Sharp had failed in its initial supply of high-resolution panels, leaving Samsung and LG to pick up the slack.

Apple and Sharp are believed to have formed a close partnership over a next-generation LCD display technology called IGZO will reportedly make its way into future mobile devices from the company. It has been suggested that the technology could arrive as early as this spring with the next iPad.

Recent rumors have put forth March as the expected launch month for the "iPad 3." According to a report from Bloomberg last week, the new iPad could feature support for 4G LTE and a quad-core processor.