Analysts believe the iPad will account for the bulk of the 55 million tablets that Gartner Inc. expects will be shipped.

Apple Inc.’s popular iPad is getting its strongest competition thus far as consumer-electronics manufacturers unveil tablet computers with bigger screens, front-facing cameras for video chatting, and other features that could be useful for education.

The iPad has been a smashing success since its April launch, leaving other companies to play catch-up in the suddenly hot market for the keyboardless, touch-screen devices.

Rivals are making a bigger push at this week’s International Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2011) in Las Vegas, betting they can challenge Apple in the market for tablet computers with such features as Android, the popular smart-phone software that Google Inc. developed to compete with the iPhone; high-definition touch screens; and cameras for video chatting and taking photos.

The competition is going to be fierce. DisplaySearch analyst Richard Semenza estimated that a hundred different tablet computers are in development, though not all of them will reach store shelves.

Major companies such as Motorola Inc. and Dell Inc. are expected to trot out new models. At least two companies—high-definition TV makers Vizio Inc. and AOC—announced tablet computers Jan. 3, days before the official opening of CES 2011 on Jan. 6.

Toshiba Corp. also plans to unveil a new tablet computer this week. Tentatively called the Toshiba Tablet, it will include two cameras for video chatting and taking photos, a high-definition screen that is larger than the iPad’s screen, and the upcoming Honeycomb version of Android that is more optimized for tablet computers.

“This is the starting gun for tablets, except Apple had a yearlong lead in the race,” BGC analyst Colin Gillis said.

Apple was expected to sell more than 13 million iPads in 2010, making up the vast majority of the total market. Although analysts believe the iPad will account for the bulk of the 55 million tablets that Gartner Inc. expects will be shipped, there’s still room for rivals to vie for sales of the remaining 10 million to 15 million devices.


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