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Apple to ship iPad 2 by end of February 2011

The Second Coming of the Apple iPad is nigh, according rumblings emanating from the company's manufacturing partners.

Occasionally-accurate Taiwanese component tracker Digitimes has been digging around in the bins behind the company which makes the genre-defining touch-screen tablet and reckons Foxconn is gearing up to ship second-generation iPads as early as the end of February 2011.

The report says that Hon Hai Precision Industry's plants in Shenzen, China have been put on notice to ship between 400,000 and 600,000 units of the much-anticipated gadget "within the next 100 days".

Apple reportedly intended to start mass production in January but those plans have been delayed as testing of the device's new firmware is carried out.

The next iteration of the iPad is widely predicted to feature front and rear-facing cameras to allow Face Time video calls, a higher resolution screen closer to the pixel density of the iPhone 4's Retina Display, and a lighter, stiffer chassis, possibly made from carbon fibre.

If the February shipping rumours turn out to have substance, we can expect an April launch for the iPad 2 as Apple will need to balance existing inventory of the older models and ensure that retailers have sufficient stock of the new version to prevent the crippling supply and demand issues which defined the original launch.

Apple sold 7.5 million iPads in the first three quarters of 2010 and is expected to sell another 7 million in the final quarter on the back of strong Christmas demand and a move into South Korea and Latin America.