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) --


Galaxy is about to expand.

Late Thursday evening, at a posh midtown Manhattan gala, the Korean tech firm is expected to launch its Galaxy Tab device, a thin tablet computer aimed squarely at


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Samsung has a strong position in handsets and emerging smartphone design," said Joel Achramowicz, senior vice president of research at investment bank Blaylock Robert Van. "It's certainly emerging competition for the iPad and Apple."

While catching the iPad will be a huge feat for any computer maker -- research firm iSuppli said the iPad will account for 74.1% of global tablet shipments this year, a number not expected to drop much in 2011 -- Samsung's Galaxy Tab ushers in a new era of potentially daunting iPad competitors, many of which will be powered by


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Android operating system.

"I think we will see a number of products that will draw demand from Apple," Achramowicz told



Tablets are expected soon from almost all of the big PC and handset makers, including


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and even


, whose two Windows 7-based Eee Pads reportedly go on sale early next year.

Read on for an update on the biggest tablet launches expected in the next few months.


Touting the same name as its recently-released smartphone lineup, Samsung's

Galaxy Tab

has the ability to make phone calls.

While that might seem a little weird, the tablet, which was unveiled at the recent IFA show in Berlin, will run Google's Android 2.2 operating system and will feature a 7-inch display. Prices and shelf dates for the U.S. Galaxy Tab have not yet been released, but stay tuned:


tech team is live-blogging the tablet's launch Thursday evening.

HP Slate

Finally -- news of innovation from HP. The company recently announced that it's back in the tablet game with its forthcoming Slate (or Hurricane?). During HP's recent third-quarter conference call, the company promised that a Windows 7 tablet will debut "in the near future" while another device, based on Palm's WebOS operating system, will launch in early 2011.

Cisco Cius

Cisco, which likely needs a hardware component to tie its

social networking ventures

together, will launch its

business-centered Cius tablet

in the first quarter of 2011.

The Android-powered device will cater to enterprise users -- Cisco has said that the device will combine high-definition voice and video with telepresence, a form of high-end videoconferencing. Whether the

Cius will directly challenge the iPad

is still up for debate; we'll say that's unlikely.

Toshiba Folio 100


is getting busy. The company unveiled its Folio 100 device at the IFA show in Berlin last week. Powered by Android version 2.2, the Folio 100 comes with a 10.1-inch touchscreen and, unlike the iPad, offers


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Flash Player 10.1. Toshiba's Folio will be available in Europe later this year, although there is no word yet on a U.S. launch.

RIM's BlackPad

RIM, which reports its second-quarter results Thursday after market close, is under serious pressure in the smartphone space. (


will be blogging RIM's results starting at 3:45 p.m. ET Thursday.) Maybe the company can deflect some handset market share attention to its new BlackPad BlackBerry tablet, which is said to be the same size as the iPad.

The BlackPad

reportedly arrives in November.

--Written by James Rogers in New York.

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