Android Emerges as Big Rival to iPad

In the high-stakes race to catch Apple Inc.’s (AAPL) hit iPad, the Android operating system that Google Inc. (GOOG) popularized in cellphones is emerging as an early front-runner.

Tablet-style computers–a moribund hardware category until the iPad started generating buzz earlier this year–are expected to be a big topic at next week’s Computex trade show, a major forum for product announcements by manufacturers of personal computers.

Acer Inc. and Dell Inc. (DELL) unveiled plans for tablet-style machines in advance of the Taipei event, and other companies, such as Asustek Computer Inc., are expected to provide details on similar devices. Makers of semiconductors and other components are also scrambling for a position in the market.

But when it comes to tablets, operating systems and applications may become even more important differentiators–just as software became a huge advantage for Apple with the iPhone.

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