Apple ‘iPad 3′ Prototype May Be Circulating, but Don’t Look for It This Year

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It sounds like prototypes (yes, plural) of Apple’s iPad 3 may be floating around the “supply chain” already, but don’t look for the next-gen tablet this year, because…why, right? If you were sitting on 68.3% of the tablet market (according to the latest 2Q 2011 IDC report) and your nearest competitor (that would be Google’s Android) fell from 34% to 26.8% market share during the same period, where’s the fire?

That’s J.P. morgan analyst Mark Moskowitz’s reasoning, anyway. He’s just told Apple Insider that—not really a surprise here—his “conversations with industry insiders” indicate Apple’s third-generation iPad won’t arrive until sometime, 2012.

(MORE: IDC: iPad 2, PlayBook Gobbled Android Market Share Last Quarter)

And some more captain-obvious thinking: “In our view, Apple should be in no rush,” says Moskowitz. “The other tablet entrants have stumbled so far, and that trend-line could persist deep into 2012.”

IDC’s view is slightly more pessimistic (for Apple). In yesterday’s report, the intelligence firm forecast Android OS’s tablet share would continue to plummet through 3Q 2011, then bounce back slightly in the fourth quarter. And analysts expect iOS’s market share to fall in 2012 as competing platforms start taking larger market share bites.

We’ve heard ‘iPad 3 coming in 2011′ rumors for months. Who knows where they start, or why. One of the last we covered involved the iPad getting a “better display” and support for 4G LTE networks. Some have even suggested the next iPad won’t be a true third-generation device so much as an expansion to the current-gen iPad family.

In the meantime, just sit back and watch empires crumble—like RIM’s, after the company announced yesterday that its Blackberry PlayBook sales had plummeted from 500,000 to just 200,000, and analysts downgraded the company to “underperform.” Ouch.

MORE: iPad 3 by the Holidays? Rumor Resurfaces

Matt Peckham is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @mattpeckham or on Facebook. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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