By Noel Young, Correspondent

October 16, 2011 | 3 min read

There is no doubt that the little-trumpeted iPhone 4S has confounded the pessimists who really wanted an 1Phone 5. Sales zooming towards 4 million over the weekend - double that of the iPhone 4 at the same stage? Wow! Not only that, the fact that it can actually have a conversation with you - largely overlooked in the low-key launch - has finally got everyone talking and suitably amazed.

But Apple, which is today holding a private memorial service at Stanford University for Steve Jobs, is powering ahead with the next big thing: the iPad 3. And it could be sooner than you think . In the absence of a statement from the company (surprise!) here is a round-up from the rumour mill. earlier this summer put together this imaginative video (in which Mr Jobs appears) which spelled out what they would like to see in iPad 3. One of their wishes could now be coming true: The Wall Street Journal reports that the iPad 3 prototypes will have a retina display with a resolution of 2048 x 1536 and it's also possible that the new tablet will have a much superior new processor, Apple's A6.

Originally some thought the iPad3 would be launched NEXT month although this is now being discounted by other commentators, who say March is more likely.

Susquehanna Financial analyst Jeff Fidacaro (reported on All thingsD) says the device is even now headed into production.

"Supply chain checks suggest to Fidacaro that Apple is ramping up its fourth-quarter iPad builds to between 12 and 14 million, from between 11 million and 13 million. And, importantly, that upward adjustment is due in part to an early iPad 3 production run," says the website.

Since their last month supply chain checks, the analyst says," We are now seeing 600,000 to one million iPad 3 builds showing up on the plan for the fourth quarter of calendar 2011.”

That points towards toward an early 2012 launch, says AllthingsD. March is a good bet - the same month Apple revealed the iPad 2.

What about the price? Competition here is hotting up. Motorola has again lowered the entry price for its Xoom tablet, rolling out a new "family edition" that will sell for $379 beginning today in the US.

The only significant hardware difference between the family edition and full-price version is that the new Xoom has 16GB of memory, half the $499 full-price.device.

Motorola's first Xoom launched in February had a price tag of $799. Apple is well aware of all the price maneuvers One possibility: that there will be a discounted edition of iPad3.

Oh, and one more thing: it might not be an iPad3 , maybe an " iPad something else," a la iPhone 4S.

Motorola IPad Xoom

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