As doomed technology companies go, Apple has it pretty good — record revenues, category defining products and seemingly unshakeable mindshare. For example, the mere whiff — iPad 5 spy pics — of their next generation tablet is enough to generate headlines and dominate the tech news cycle.

And, what we have here is an early stage 9.7-inch iPad backplate that, throwing caution to the wind, could part of Apple’s fifth generation tablet.

While we cannot confirm that the above image is legitimate, it does provide a solid representation of what Apple’s next iPad will likely look like. We were told this is a prototype back piece for the fifth-generation iPad with a 9.7-inch display. We were also told that the casing is almost as thin as the iPad mini’s back … this casing would likely be for an LTE model – as the black antenna cut implies — 9 to 5 Mac

Previously, next-gen iPad parts began appearing three to six months before the final product shipped. With competition heating up, the purported imminent arrival of the 128GB iPad 4 makes a lot of sense — an interim release to keep things fresh while Apple readies their next big release.

iPad 5 Spy Pics in Perspective

This view is echoed by Daring Fireball’s John Gruber who opines, “If this 128 GB iPad 4 thing is true, I take it to imply that the iPad 5 isn’t coming until later in the year, and that this is a way for Apple to make a little news, keep the lineup fresh, and raise the bar on tablet storage capacities.”

With the iPad mini selling very well indeed — no need for a near-term update — Apple’s tablet plans for the year are starting to take shape…

Sound reasonable to you?