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With all the fuss about tomorrow's Apple education-themed event, its easy to forget that the company's next big launch isn't that far off. Reports suggest that the iPad 3's launch profile could match or beat that of the iPad 2 last year, as Apple aims to stay ahead of Samsung.

 

History Repeating

Reports from Asia and here suggest that Apple could be pushing forward the launch of the iPad 3. Last year, the iPad 2 was announced on the March 2 and went on-sale on March 11. However, with Samsung's probable launch of a Galaxy tablet in the same time-frame, Apple may be looking to steal a march in February.

A Japanese blog is reporting multiple sources suggesting an early February launch, perhaps with units going on sale just a few days later. The tablets are certainly being built in Asian factories right now and Apple's slick supply chain shouldn't have much trouble getting them in place for sale for a mid-February launch.

Looking for a Deal

Naturally, Apple isn't saying much, with its legendary veil of secrecy intact, so far. Current collective wisdom suggests that iPad 3 will have a better quality screen, more processing power and LTE. With the new iOS 5.1, which developers say has improved Facebook integration and perhaps offering some new apps too. Apple is unlikely to say anything at its education/ebook event this week, but there's always that sliver of hope.

To compete with the Kindle Fire, expect the price of the iPad 2 to come down, and for it to remain on sale longer than the first iPad did. With analysts expecting some 48 million iPad sales this year, Apple will likely only be limited by production.