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LG Developing Android Tablet

Joining an increasingly crowded field, LG revealed plans to introduce thinner, lighter tablet computer running Google's Android OS.

Following in the footsteps of Apple, Dell, Samsung and most recently, Cisco, among others, LG Electronics Inc. has joined the fray and announced that it too, plans to build a tablet PC that will be powered by Google's Android OS. The electronics maker said the unnamed tablet is due out around the end of the year. Pricing was not disclosed.

LG did not specify whether the new tablet will compete with the 10.1-inch Windows 7-based tablet it showed off at Computex 2010, or if is replacing that model, the UX10.

With the flurry of tablet announcements this year following on the heels of the iPad launch, 2010 is quickly becoming the year of the tablet, with observers predicting the device will gain in market share. Tablet PCs will outsell netbooks in 2012, according to Forrester Research.

The 451 Group is also predicting a move toward more powerful, smaller laptops that fit into the netbook category, said Chris Hazelton, research director, mobile and wireless, "but a bigger threat will be from the tablet, with people saying 'If I'm going to mostly do web browsing, why have a keyboard?' and they increasingly will want a display device dedicated to viewing content."

In announcing the plans, LG said its tablet will be "thinner and lighter than competing devices.'' But while Android is still behind the curve and is playing catch-up to Apple, said Hazelton, there is still room to compete. "You'll see these device vendors leverage the openness of Android in that they can put specific apps on [tablets] that may be banned or prohibited by Apple." In addition, competing tablets will have hardware features like USB ports, removable batteries and expandable memory, he said-all of which the iPad doesn't.

"Hopefully, these [Android] devices can run 10 or more hours like the iPad can,'' he said, and having a backup battery is handy, especially for business travel, if there is a problem. By contrast, Apple requires a user to send back the entire device if they encounter a battery issue. "If you open the device yourself you void the warranty," Hazelton noted.

Among the desirable features tablet makers should be considering are a front-facing camera for video chat, he said, along with tight integration with Google Docs for business and Google Voice, which is already very well integrated with Android. "Google Voice … is almost unusable on the iPad and iPhone because it's a web app and not a native app that was approved by Apple,'' said Hazelton. "Those can be tightly integrated in a tablet PC."

HTC could be the next to announce tablet plans, Hazelton said, since they came out with a small netbook running Windows XP a couple of years ago, but are likely to launch one running Android. Research in Motion and HP Palm may also follow. "Palm had a netbook that ran Linux a couple of years ago that never made it to market, but I think there's still interest there," said Hazelton, "particularly when you have a company like HP with lot of funding behind it now, so they can move into the tablet market unlike before because they lacked the resources."

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