It's that time of year where the iPad rumors kick into high gear.  The latest comes via Citi analyst Richard Gardner who says that not only is the iPad 3 getting the long-rumored retina display that would be pumping out a resolution of 2048×1536, but that it could go on sale as early as February.

The big question right now is just how thick the iPad 3 will be.  Several sources are saying that the third iteration of the market dominating tablet will be thicker due to the internal components required to power the retina display, but Gardner is also saying that "there do not appear to be any significant technical hurdles remaining" to launching with the higher resolution screen.  To my thinking, that means the device won't be getting thicker.  If there is one thing we know about Apple, it's that it's a company that believes in making things smaller instead of larger, and increasing the size of the iPad just seems a little odd for them.

The iPad 2 launched on March 11 of this year, so the idea that the iPad 3 could launch in February is not completely outrageous.  The big question is if Apple can continue to launch new versions of the tablet so close to the holiday shopping season.  The iPad brand looks set to dominate electronics purchases for the second year running during the gift giving season, but at some point consumers are going to catch on to just how soon after this festive time of year the newer version hits the stores.  Instead of moving closer to the beginning of the year, you would think that they may want to start sliding the other direction a little step at a time.

As with all iPad rumors, you need to take it with a grain of salt, but things definitely seem to be heating up for a first quarter launch in 2012.

Are you excited for what the iPad 3 may hold in store?

[via Business Insider]