To say that folks are anticipating Apple to unveil a new version of its popular tablet sometime in the near future is an understatement. The company has launched a new iPad during the first quarter in each of the last two years — folks are expecting it.

We’ve heard a lot of chatter over the last few months regarding what the new iPad will look like and what new features it will contain. We’ve heard so much gossip, in fact, that it’s been hard to keep track of it all. And that’s why we’ve put together this rumor roundup….

Hardware

As far as appearance goes, the iPad 3 is more than likely going to look very similar to its predecessor. We’ve seen multiple images of purported iPad 3 components — including an aluminum rear casing. And all signs point to an iPad 2-like form factor.

Most of the tablet’s updates are expected to be internal. The new iPad is rumored to feature a faster processor, more than likely the quad core A6, upgraded cameras, and according to a recent report from The Wall Street Journal, LTE technology.

Finally, there’s the screen. Out of all of the iPad 3 gossip we’ve heard over the last few months, the tablet’s display has been the most popular topic. And all roads lead to a staggering 2048×1536 Retina display.

Software

With over 3 betas released — the last one being over a month ago — there’s a good chance we’ll see the iPad 3 launch with iOS 5.1. We’ve heard a number of rumors regarding new features we could see in the update, including improved Siri functionality and system-level Facebook integration.

Speaking of Siri, there’s also a possibility we could see the popular digital assistant turn up on Apple’s new tablet. We’ve seen evidence of this in the iOS 5.1 betas, and Apple has every reason to want to include the popular feature in the iPad 3.

When

Given Apple’s previous iPad release cycle, the obvious answer to “when will Apple unveil its new tablet?” is early March. We’ve heard this timeframe mentioned in a number of reports, most notably from AllThingsD’s John Paczkowski.

If you’re looking for a more specific date, iMore is predicting that Apple’s iPad 3 event will be held on Wednesday, March 7th. Ex-Macworld editor Jim Dalrymple gave his “yep” of approval on the report, adding some serious weight to iMore’s claims.

Did you get all of that? If not, here’s a quick recap. The iPad 3 will look similar to the iPad 2 but feature several internal upgrades including a Retina display, quad-core processor, and LTE technology (for Verizon and AT&T at least). And it will be unveiled on March 7th.

Of course, all of this could be completely wrong. The truth is, we won’t know anything for sure until Tim Cook (or another prominent Apple figure) holds the tablet up on stage during the iPad 3 event. But so far, it sounds good to us.

What do you think of the iPad 3 rumors? Is there any features you’re hoping for that haven’t been mentioned?