Although the expected iPad competition never really heated up last year, 2011 is going to be a different story, with a slate (ahem) full of Android-based tablets, the HP TouchPad, the Research in Motion (RIM) PlayBook, and others. This week, however, a number of interesting new iPad competitors have cropped up, lending credence to the notion that 2011 really will be the year of the tablet.

First up is Sony, which announced plans for two new slate-based tablets this year, code-named S1 and S2. Both are based on Android "Honeycomb" 3.0, and though the S1 is a "traditional," iPad-style tablet with a 9.4" screen, the S2 is an innovative-looking clamshell device with two 5.5" widescreen multitouch displays, both of which feature a resolution of 1024 x 480.

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No pricing or exact availability is currently available—Sony says both will launch this year, possibly at different times in different markets—but these new tablets are already causing quite a stir, and Sony claims it will be the number-two tablet maker after Apple by the end of 2012. Both devices feature dual-core NVIDIA Tegra 2 processors and will be capable of playing "PlayStation-quality" video games. Some believe the devices will be branded as PlayStations when they're released.

ThinkPad-maker Lenovo, meanwhile, is prepping a ThinkPad-branded Android 3.0 tablet of its own, and given the company's pedigree, it could steal some thunder from the RIM PlayBook. Due in June, the ThinkPad Tablet will slide onto a ThinkPad laptop shell so it can be used as the screen in a true ThinkPad laptop (albeit it one running Android, not Windows). It will also feature an IPS display and a dual-core Tegra 2 processor.

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And Dell, no stranger to the tablet market—it launched its Streak line of tablets last year—will also have an Android 3.0-based tablet this year as well as (get this) a Windows 7-based tablet for its more old-fashioned customers. The Streak Pro-branded Android tablet will feature a 1280 x 800 10.1" widescreen display, the requisite dual-core Tegra 2 CPU, and a Dell-created "Stage 1.5" user interface, according to sources. It should launch in June.

For Windows fans, Dell will offer up a Latitude ST in October, offering a 10" screen, an Intel "Oak Trail" Core-series processor, front- and rear-facing cameras, 128GB of SSD-based storage, and 2GB of RAM. And because it's a Windows machine, it will include stylus-based input with handwriting recognition in addition to standard multitouch features. Best of all, it will feature eight hours of battery life—what I believe is a first for a Windows-based slate-style tablet.

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Dell's tablet strategy for 2011 was leaked by Engadget.