The next generation version of Apple's iPad will begin mass production and shipping from its China factory by the end of February, Taiwanese trade website Digitimes reported Tuesday, citing sources among component makers.

Some 400,000 to 600,000 units of the tablet computer will ship in the first wave once famously-secretive Apple finalizes the plans, the report said.

"The iPad 2 will ship as soon as the end of February in 2011," the report said. "Apple originally planned to start mass production in January, but because the device's firmware is currently still in testing, Apple has been postponing the schedule."

The report followed a prediction by one analyst last month that the iPad 2 would hit retail shelves in April.

Brian Marshall of Gleacher & Company predicted the sure-to-be hot item would make its debut well after the holiday season.

Apple sold nearly eight million iPads in the first nine months of 2010, according to the latest figures available.

An Apple spokesperson declined to comment on the report.

Read more: http://www.digitimes.com/news/a20101206PD224.html