The latest rumor from Japanese blog Macotakara claims that production for the next-generation iPad has already begun, and that Apple is expected to ship the product by early March. Foxconn and Pegatron are reportedly manufacturing the iPad 3 as we speak, and Foxconn is responsible for 85% of the supplies.

According to the report, initial shipments are scheduled to go out in early March, corroborating early claims from different sources. Apple is expected to hold a low-key media event at the end of January, but no dates have been given for other events in the coming months.

From Google Translate:

According to Chinese source, Foxconn Technology and Pegatron Technology started next generation of iPad assembly with Foxconn bearing 85% and Pegatron taking 15% of the production load like as iPhone 4S. Accelerated schedule is made possible by earlier Chinese New Year festival, 23rd-28th January.

Macotakara also says that Sharp is making the iPad 3’s displays — another claim that has been reported before. While Macotakara has gotten rumors wrong in the past, it is considered to be more reliable than Digitimes, a Taiwanese publication that has been the main source of next-generation iPad rumors so far.

iLounge claimed to have gotten a hands-on with the iPad 3’s rear shell yesterday, noting that the device would be nearly identical to the iPad 2’s exterior design. A new, higher resolution screen was expected from iLounge, and Macotakara says that the current Smart Cover will fit the new tablet. Like iLounge, Macotakara claims that the iPad 3 will be slightly thicker than its predecessor.

With all signs pointing towards a new model in the next 3-4 months, it would be wise to wait on purchasing a new iPad for the time being.