"People familiar with the matter" this morning told The Wall Street Journal, the unofficial Apple mouthpiece, that iPad 2 has hit the assembly line and is currently being in production as we speak. It’s expected to hit store shelves "in the next couple of months."

The report goes on to detail the various features the rumor-mill has already outlined, such as a thinner and lighter design with a shiny back like on the iPod touch. Better graphics and a faster processor with double the RAM of its predecessor are also in the cards. The new iPad will have a front-facing camera for FaceTime videoconferencing.

Its display resolution is described as being "similar to the first iPad" which has a 1024 by 768 pixel resolution display. Many watchers, this author included, think a purported Retina upgrade on iPad 2 (2048 by 1536 pixel resolution display) is cost prohibitive for the time being. Verizon Wireless and AT&T are expected to carry the device, confirming an earlier Verizon iPad speculation. iPad 2 might be a dual-wireless device compatible with both GSM and CDMA radio technologies used by AT&T and Verizon, respectively. The tablet won’t be sold through other carriers like Sprint or T-Mobile USA, the paper has learned.

Although the story failed to provide in-depth information about the iPad 2 hardware, the usually well-informed AppleInsider filled the gaps with several interesting observations. iPad 2 will probably run a new system-on-a-chip said to combine a dual-core Cortex-A9 ARM processor and Imagination Technologies’ PowerVR SGX543 graphics, the publication wrote.

The silicon will presumably be branded as the A5 chip or something along this line and manufactured by Samsung, like the iPad’s A4 chip. AppleInsider is pretty certain about a VGA camera on the front and "a 1MP rear camera capable of 720p HD capture but not equivalent to the 5MP iPhone 4 camera, which rivals many point and shoot cameras in terms of photo quality."

512MB of main memory will couple iPad’s faster computational and graphics performance. If true, iPad 2 will effectively double the iPad’s 256MB RAM and match the iPhone 4 which also has half a gigabyte of main memory. However, 512MB is still only half of 1GB of memory found on the powerful Motorola Xoom tablet. The memory module on iPad 2 should utilize a faster 1066MHz bus, an improvement over the 800MHz bus on the iPhone 4.

A dual-core processor, faster bus and double the memory will enable smoother multitasking, while the enhanced GPU will power better-looking games with greater detail. Last month, AppleInsider published a list of rumored iPad 2 suppliers, courtesy of Concord Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, included below. The winners include LG and Samsung which are both said to supply a new 30-35 percent thinner display module, baseband chip suppliers Infineon and Qualcomm, touch panels from Wintek and TPK and more.

Foxconn, Apple’s favorite manufacturing partner, allegedly won a contract to mass-produce iPad 2. Since its debut in April, iPad has sold 14.8 million units. Apple reported in the holiday quarter shipments of 7.33 million iPad units, earning the company $4.6 billion in sales, which is a whooping 17 percent of their quarterly revenue of $26.74 billion.