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Dell's 7-inch Tablet On Deck

ROUND ROCK, Texas ( TheStreet) -- Dell's (DELL) 7-inch tablet will be launched in the next few weeks, according to a published media report, with the computer maker joining the scrum of tech giants scrambling to challenge the Apple(AAPL - Get Report) iPad.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Dell will launch a 7-inch tablet within the next few weeks and a 10-inch tablet within the next 6 to 12 months. Amit Midha, Dell's president for greater China, predicts "a whole slew" of new products next year, according to the Journal, including 3-inch, 4-inch and 10-inch devices.

Dell's 7-inch tablet will run Google's (GOOG - Get Report) Android operating system, Midha said, but some of the new offerings will use Microsoft's (MSFT) Windows OS. The computer maker is also deciding whether to use Google's Chrome operating system.

Earlier this week, Research In Motion(RIMM) unveiled its own tablet, the strangely-titled PlayBook, and Hewlett-Packard(HPQ - Get Report) discussed its new PalmPad tablet during the company's annual analyst event Tuesday.

Both the PlayBook and the WebOS-powered PalmPad don't hit the market until next year, so it makes sense for Dell to ramp up its tablet efforts ahead of its rivals' launches.

Dell CEO Michael Dell gave a brief glimpse of the 7-inch tablet at Oracle's(ORCL) OpenWorld event last week, but he did not offer a shipping date or any tech specs.

Dell already sells a tablet; its Streak was launched last month. Dell's attempts to market the mini-tablet, however, left much to be desired. The Streak generated some buzz after it was previewed at CES, but Dell waited until June to debut the device -- in the U.K. Initially, Dell had promised that the device would be available in the U.S. in late July, although this was pushed back until mid-August.

Despite the flurry of activity from companies such as Dell, RIM and HP, Apple has built up a significant lead in the tablet market after launching the iPad in a blaze of publicity earlier this year. The consumer tech giant has already sold more than 3 million iPads, and analysts are predicting continued momentum next year. Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster has said that he expects Apple to ship a massive 21 million iPads in 2011.

Dell shares rose 6 cents, or 0.49%, to $12.77 on Wednesday, despite a modest dip in tech stocks that saw the Nasdaq slip 0.4%. Apple's stock rose $1.11, or 0.39%, to $287.97.

--Written by James Rogers in New York.

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