As 2011 winds down, speculation about the iPad 3 is ramping up. Although it's too early to paint a clear picture of Apple's next iPad, unconfirmed reports give us a sense of what to expect. Here's what we think we know so far about the iPad 3:

A6 Processor

Apple has debuted new processors in both of the last two iPads, so it's safe to assume that the iPad 3 will also get a new chip, probably dubbed the A6. But whether the A6 is a dual-core processor like this year's A5, or a quad-core processor, remains uncertain. A report in Korea Times suggests that Apple will go quad-core for the iPad 3, but Linley Gwennap, principle analyst for the Linley Group, thinks the A6 will be a more power-efficient dual-core processor.

Retina Display

The other big iPad 3 feature that Apple watchers are hoping for is a "Retina" display, doubling the current iPad's resolution to 2048-by-1536. Citi analyst Richard Gardner is betting on a Retina display iPad 3 early next year, and DisplaySearch analyst Richard Shim, who at one point was a Retina display naysayer for the iPad 3, told CNet that production has begun.

Design Changes

Not much is known about what the iPad 3 will look like, but Japanese blog Makotakara has cited unnamed sources in saying the next iPad will be thicker than its predecessor, possibly to accommodate the updated display. The site has also reported that the iPad 3 will have a smaller dock connector. Meanwhile, parts reseller TVC-Mall is now selling microphone cable replacement ribbons for the iPad 3, with a different design than earlier iPads, suggesting a "major redesign" according to Cydia Blog.

iPad Mini

Reports around the Web are saying that Apple is planning a smaller iPad in addition to the iPad 3, with a 7.85-inch display. DisplaySearch's Shim said Apple is showing interest in a smaller tablet, possibly for a late 2012 release. DigiTimes, citing "sources in the supply chain," also says a 7.85-inch iPad could arrive before the fourth quarter of 2012. The idea is to compete with smaller, cheaper tablets like Amazon's Kindle Fire.

Release Date

As with the iPhone 4S, release date predictions for the iPad 3 have been all over the place. DigiTimes says it's scheduled to launch at the end of the first quarter (March), while Citi's Richard Gardner thinks it'll launch in February. Linley Gwennap, however, thinks the A6 processor could hold Apple back, resulting in a June 2012 release for the iPad 3.