It's official. Google will be entering the tablet fray with a new product set to ship in time for the opening of the holiday shopping season. Few details are available yet so it's hard to know how this device will size up to the iPad from an environmental and performance perspective, but a great deal of speculation is now brewing about its operating system.

Most rumors indicate a new version of the Chrome OS, which some say could be the downfall of the device's success. Chrome is completely Web-based, so it requires a permanent and stable high bandwidth Internet connection to perform properly, something that (at least in the U.S.) is not even close to a reality.

A much better choice would be the Android platform which is resident on the device, has its own burgeoning app store and is expected to be declunkified with the upcoming Android version 3.0 (the 2.2 version I ran on my Samsung was beyond clunky). Android 3.0 will also support other large format tablets like the Dell Streak.

Android phone sales by manufacturer HTC have been very strong, resulting in a 33 percent jump in profits reported last month, so it is likely to be a pretty good Christmas season for HTC and Google, assuming they can drive down the price far enough to steal some of iPad's thunder ... a device which will be at the top of everyone's Christmas list.

How low can they go? HTC will no doubt make an appealing product packed with nice features and (one hopes) some good energy efficiency measures, but it will be hard to beat Apple unless the Google tablet retails for less than $100 or is even given away for free (with a Verizon contract, no doubt).

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