No confirmations yet, but a reliable online report Tuesday said Apple could begin selling the next version of the iPad as soon as February. The report, from Taiwan-based DigiTimes, said Foxconn, Apple’s Asian contract manufacturer for the iPad, was preparing to ship new versions of the device from China to Apple in February.

The report has not been confirmed by Apple, but DigiTimes has a solid track record when it comes to stories concerning Asian electronics suppliers and manufacturers.
If the story is confirmed it could mean Apple’s next blockbuster is just around the corner, early in the new year. But it also could hurt Christmas sales of the original version of the iPad if consumers hold off purchases in anticipation of a new model coming on the market after the holidays.

Apple has made no official announcements about a second version of the iPad, but speculation over which features such a device might include has been rampant on blogs and Internet forums. Among other things, Apple fans hope the company adds a front-facing camera to the next iPad so it can be used with Apple’s Facetime video chat software.

Other hoped for features include a mini-USB port, iPhone 4’s Retina Display and gyroscope technologies, and more memory.

The iPad, which launched in the U.S. on April 3rd, has become one of the hottest selling gadgets in tech industry history. Apple sold more than one million units in its first 28 days on the market. Apple recently reported that it sold 4.2 million iPads during its fiscal fourth quarter. While impressive, the number was below analyst estimates of between 4.8 million and 5 million units.

Apple produces six versions of the device, including Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi + 3G models with 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB storage capacities. Prices range from $499 for the 16GB, Wi-Fi only version, to $829 for the 64GB Wi-Fi+3G edition.

Read more here.