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Signs of Spring -- and iPad 3 arrival

Apple iPad 2

Apple

Out with the old iPad 2, in with the iPad 3.

The Apple tablet is due for an update, and the anticipated product refresh is pushing down the price of the iPad 2.

Best Buy lowered the price of the iPad 2 by $50 over the weekend — one sure sign the retailer is looking to shed inventory, likely ahead of the next-generation device.

Apple, in typical fashion, has kept a tight hold on the timing of its product launches, but the company has launched new iPads in the early months of the past two years.

Analysts and Apple enthusiasts expect the Cupertino, Calif.-company to issue invites this week for a mid-March launch of the next-generation tablet. That would open the way for the product to hit shelves by the end of the first quarter.

The iPad 3 is expected to include the voice-activated assistant Siri, which was the main feature on the iPhone 4S. As well, the new iPad could have a higher-resolution screen, among other upgrades.

Apple sales fluctuate with the timing of new products, as consumers cool to gadgets they believe are about to be refreshed. The company suffered iPhone sales setbacks in the summer with an unusually long delay in releasing the next-generation device.

Apple is secretive about the timing of its product launches to avoid such sales slumps. Still, savvy consumers, looking to the past as their guide, shy away from products that are reaching the ends of their life cycles.

The iPad is the top-selling tablet, and a big moneymaker for Apple. With $9.2 billion in iPad sales last quarter, the tablet was the company’s No. 2 revenue generator behind the iPhone, with $24.4 billion in sales.

Read more on the iPad 3's imminent arrival at the New York Post.