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Apple will unveil two iPad models at a conference in January, according to Taiwanese publication DigiTimes.

Apple is set to unveil its next-generation iPad which will come in two versions at the MacWorld/iWorld expo scheduled for January 26, 2012, read the Dec. 29 report, citing unnamed supply-chain sources. The new models will join the existing iPad 2 to demonstrate Apple s complete iPad series targeting the entry-level, mid-range and high-end market segments.

A lower-cost iPad 2 will apparently compete head to head against Amazon s Kindle Fire, a 7-inch tablet that acts as a portable vending machine for the online retailer s e-books and streaming content. Meanwhile, according to the report, the new iPads will feature higher-resolution screens and dual-LED light bars to strengthen the brightness of the panels.

Earlier in December, DigiTimes quoted still other unnamed sources in the supply chain as claiming the first next-generation iPads would arrive within three or four months. Certainly if Apple follows the same release cadence of the previous two iPad versions, the next will make its debut early in 2012; however, given the wild and unfounded rumors that usually accompany each new iPad on its way to eventual unveiling and release, it pays to take many of the reports with the proverbial grain of salt.

Apple brings 2011 to a close with its dominating share of the tablet market still firmly intact. The late Steve Jobs introduced the iPad 2 March 2. Is 2011 going to be the year of the copycats? I think if we did nothing, maybe a little bit, he told the audience. But we haven t been resting on our laurels. Over the next few quarters, a variety of competitors including the Motorola Xoom and Hewlett-Packard s TouchPad suffered from anemic sales, seemingly solidifying Apple s lead in the short term. 

However, the competition is unlikely to abate in 2012. Microsoft and its manufacturing partners are prepping a series of tablets running the upcoming Windows 8, which will make a hard play for PC power users and businesses. In addition, competitors like Samsung are still very much in the tablet fight. Whatever Apple decides to release next year, it will continue to face a crowded marketplace.

Follow Nicholas Kolakowski on Twitter 

To read the original eWeek article, click here: Apple’s iPad 3 Coming in Two Models in 2012: Rumor