MacRumors has turned up an Ebay auction for what looks to be an early iPad prototype. There isn't much detail available in the auction, but going by the photos it looks like Apple may have been playing around with the idea of putting the dock connector on the long side. This prototype has not one but two dock connectors, one each for portrait and landscape orientations.
It's running iOS 3.2 on an unknown chipset and CPU. Aside from the few photos we don't know much about it, but it does look like it's running test software. The seller reports that the touchscreen doesn't work and may not be repairable. There's no identifiable markings on the case but what is there suggests that this really was a prototype.
Several of the components carry part numbers and manufacturing dates that predate ones on the original iPad's. There's no iPad name on the shell, but it does have a prototype identification number in a number of spots on both the rear shell and front bezel.
So is anyone planning to buy it? The auction ends tonight around midnight. If you win you can expect to get threatening phone calls from Apple about an hour afterward, if not sooner. Remember when Gizmodo had the iPhone 4 prototype? Apple sicced the police on Jason Chen, the blogger who wrote up the scoop. I'd bet they will repeat that performance with whoever buys this iPad.
But I wouldn't single out Apple for thuggish behavior; they're not the only ones who've done it. Last December a couple different TouchPad Go prototypes showed up on Ebay. I almost got one, but got outbid. Later on I heard that one of the sellers was visited by a P.I. hired by HP. The detective tried to bully the seller into telling where the TouchPad Go came from (it was never supposed to get into public hands). It didn't work, but the fact that HP paid someone to go harass the seller (in Canada, no less) scares this blogger.