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Goldman Sachs says Apple planning thinner iPad with camera, mini USB

A team of analysts for investment bank Goldman Sachs said Monday that their sources lead them to believe Apple will introduce a second-generation iPad during the spring of 2011 that will feature a camera, mini USB and a lighter design.

Citing supply chain checks, the analyst duo of Henry King and Kevin Lu said they believe that Hon Hai will remain the sole manufacturer of the new 9.7-inch model, explaining that the Cupertino-based electronics maker remains undecided on a second partner to help build the tablets.

The analysts also said their checks found that "the 7” iPad project has not yet been finalized" and therefore said its "unlikely to be launched ahead of the new 9.7” iPad."

According to the pair, the new 9.7-inch iPad "is targeted to be thinner and lighter, with an embedded camera and mini USB." It "could be launched in early" second quarter of 2011, they said.

A camera-equipped second-generation iPad would fall in line with Apple's plan to ship FaceTime on as many devices as possible. Earlier in September, AppleInsider learned that a FaceTime-enabled iPad had progressed to "advanced testing stages." Sources indicated that Apple was unlikely to follow its usual 12-month product cycle with the iPad, possibly refreshing it in the first quarter of 2011.

Last week, Taiwanese industry publication DigiTimes also predicted a first quarter 2011 debut for the second-generation iPad, suggesting that the tablet would maintain the same 9.7-inch screen size..

Rumors of a second-generation 7-inch iPad model have persisted since shortly after the iPad launched in April. On Friday, a Chinese website claimed a 7-inch iPad that takes after the iPhone 4 aesthetic is already a "finished product."

While 7-inch iPad rumors remain unverified, Blackberry-maker Research in Motion has gone ahead and made 7" the new 9.7". RIM announced Monday that it will release the "Playbook," a 7-inch tablet, in early 2011. Early rumors about RIM's answer to the iPad had pegged the screen at 9.7 inches.

Mini USB on the next iteration of the iPad would come as a surprising break from Apple's reliance on its own proprietary dock connector. Apple collects substantial licensing fees and royalties for accessories that utilize the company's custom connection.