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Fans of Apple s iPad tablet can look forward to a version of the device with a larger screen size — 7.85 inches, to be exact — in the fourth quarter of 2012, along with a new version of the popular tablet in the first quarter of the new year, according to a report in Taiwanese tech site Digitimes. According to unnamed sources in the supply chain, Apple will buy panels for the iPad from AU Optronics (AUO), as well as 7.85-inch panels from LG Display, the online site reported.

The next iPad will launch in March or April 2012, according to a recent report in DigiTimes. That Dec. 12 article again cited unnamed sources in the supply chain for the information, adding: The next generation iPads are expected to be available in the next 3-4 months as makers in the supply chain have started delivering parts and components for the new tablets to OEM contractors while reducing those prepared for iPad 2.

Apple continues to drive worldwide media tablet shipments, according to a recent report from IT research firm IDC. The company shipped 11.1 million units in the third quarter, up from 9.3 million units in the second quarter, representing a 61.5 percent worldwide market share. That was a slight dip from its second-quarter market share of 63.3 percent.

I fully expect Apple to have its best-ever quarter in 4Q11, and in 2012 I think we’ll see Apple’s product begin to gain more traction outside of the consumer market, specifically with enterprise and education markets," Tom Mainelli, IDC s research director of mobile connected devices, said in a statement.

Jennifer Song, research analyst with IDC s worldwide trackers, said in a statement that Apple’s larger portfolio of tablet-specific apps, upcoming iPad versions, and growing physical store presence in key emerging markets like Asia/Pacific will help the company maintain its global leadership.

However, an improving Android OS experience and lower competitor pricing in an environment with worldwide economic concerns should help Android to increase its market share," Song said.

IDC expects Google’s Android operating system to make dramatic share gains in the fourth quarter, growing to 40.3 percent, an increase due mostly to the entrance of Amazon’s Kindle Fire, and to a lesser extent the Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet, into the market. Worldwide media tablet shipments in the third quarter rose by 23.9 percent over the previous quarter, to 18.1 million units. Analysts said they expect strong demand in fouth quarter and has increased its worldwide shipment forecast for 2011 to 63.3 million units, up from a previous projection of 62.5 million units.

To read the original eWeek article, click here: Apple iPad to Offer Larger Screen Size in 2012: Report