updated 11:39 am EDT, Wed September 26, 2012
Purpose of parts still a mystery
Apple has ordered a sizable number of carbon fiber parts from a Japanese company which began production with the material in March, a Macotakara source claims. Little other information is available, although Apple is said to have ordered "samples" from the company in too large a quantity for that to have actually been the case. That would presumably imply that Apple is putting a carbon fiber device into production, or at least doing large-scale testing.
Apple has previously filed for patents on carbon fiber MacBook and iPad housings, which could mean that the company is considering going in either or both directions. A new iPad would likely be first, since the company only recently updated the MacBook Pro lineup, and weight is a more critical factor with tablets. A recurring complaint about the iPad is that the device is too heavy to hold single-handed for more than a few minutes, something a carbon fiber back might solve.
Current expectations are that Apple will introduce an iPad mini by the end of the year, and a new full-sized iPad in March 2013. It could potentially be too late for the Mini to use carbon fiber, especially if a rumored October announcement takes place. Leaks have also suggested that metal backs are being produced for the hardware.