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iPad 2 rivals slim down, speed up while matching 'magic' price

After seeing Apple's iPad 2 shed one third of its original girth in a year, consumer electronics companies are putting their tablets on celebrity diets to gain the adoration of would-be consumers.

Competition in the tablet arena is fierce, but manufacturers are rising to the challenge.

Despite releasing its Galaxy Tab 10.1 just months ago, Samsung was at CTIA Wireless to unveil two new tablets: a brand new smaller Galaxy Tab 8.9 and a revamped Galaxy Tab 10.1.

With a side profile of 8.6mm, Samsung's new tablets are thinner than most smartphones. And perhaps more importantly, they are even more svelte than the slimmed-down iPad 2 which measures in at 8.8mm.

Samsung realizes appearance counts and consumers want a digital device that's thin and light, but it hasn't forgotten it's what's inside that really matters.

Samsung's tablets will be the first tablets to run on a customized version of Google's latest tablet operating system, Android 3.0 Honeycomb.

The 10.1" Galaxy tablet offers up to 10 hours of battery life, a 1GHz dual-core processor, dual-antenna wifi, 4G connectivity, a rear-facing 3MP camera and a 2MP front-facing camera and surround sound stereo speakers.

The 8.9" version packs in similar specs in a smaller form-factor.

The Galaxy Tab 8.9 is priced starting from $469, while its bigger sibling gets a starting price tag of $499.

The price tags are on par with the iPad 2, meaning consumers will make their tablet purchasing decisions based on the best operating system, tablet features and app selection for them rather than stewing over prices.  

Not wanting to be left out of the party, Research In Motion (RIM) provided further details about its long-awaited PlayBook tablet.

The device will feature a 7" 1024x600 LCD touchscreen display, advanced security features, true multitasking, RIM's BlackBerry Tablet OS, a 1GHz dual-core processor, 3 and 5MP cameras with support for 1080p recording, and stereo speakers. The PlayBook tablet will measure in at 10mm thick.

Samsung and RIM are firing ahead with their tablet strategies while another major player is reportedly struggling to sell its tablet in the cut-throat market.

According to Jefferies analyst Peter Misek, sales of Motorola's Xoom tablet "have been underwhelming" because the device "did not meet the magic price point of $500."

Apple's iPad 2 is available in the US starting at $499 and will arrive in 25 additional countries around the world on Friday.

RIM's PlayBook tablet will be available in three different models when it hits the shelves on April 19 in the US and Canada. Prices start from $499.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab is due to arrive in stores on June 8. The Galaxy Tab 8.9 is expected to arrive early this summer.