Apple's second version of its iPad tablet computer has already entered production, according to the Wall Street Journal. Citing "people familiar with the matter" the paper claims that the so-called iPad 2 will be thinner and lighter, with at least one built-in camera for video chat, while sporting a significantly faster processor and more memory. Not much of a surprise there. Contrary to earlier rumors, it will also purportedly keep the same display resolution as the first model.

The new model will reportedly be sold through AT&T and Verizon Wireless, suggesting the iPad 2 might use Qualcomm's Gobi communications chip that supports both GSM and CDMA networks -- which is found (with the GSM capability disconnected) in Apple's Verizon-friendly version of the iPhone 4.

There are no details of when the new iPad might be hitting store shelves or what the pricing might be, but if Apple stays true to the same release cycle it uses for the iPhone we can probably expect it to arrive in the next couple of months at prices similar to the $499 to $829 range available for the current versions of the tablet.

All in all it should be an interesting year for this still nascent segment. Rivals such as Samsung and Motorola are coming on strong with Android tablets, while Research In Motion is launching the PlayBook using a completely reworked operating system based on QNX Neutrino and HP will be announcing its webOS-based tablets later today.