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Wednesday, September 29, 2010, 05:45 am PT (08:45 am ET)

Dell to launch 7-inch tablet in 'next few weeks' to challenge iPad

U.S. computer maker Dell reportedly plans to take on Apple's iPad with a smaller, 7-inch device set to launch in a matter of weeks, as well as a 10-inch touchscreen device planned to debut in the next year.

As noted Wednesday by The Wall Street Journal, the president of Dell in Greater China revealed that the 7-inch tablet, shown off briefly last week by CEO Michael Dell, will launch "within the next few weeks." The device will run Google's Android mobile operating system.

Amit Midha of Dell also indicated that his company plans to launch "a whole slew" of new products in the next 6-12 months, including a 10-inch tablet closer in size to Apple's 9.7-inch iPad. Midha said his company will offer products in multiple sizes, including three and four inches, and some of them will run Microsoft Windows instead of Android.

He also revealed that Dell will provide tablets running Google's lightweight Chrome OS operating system, designed for low-cost netbooks and lightweight portable devices. Google's browser-based operating system is set to launch this fall.

In August, Dell launched the Streak, a 5-inch device that functions as a smartphone, but has been pitched by the computer maker as a "tablet." The device runs on the AT&T network in the U.S., and costs $299 with a two-year contract, or $549 without. It also runs Android 1.6, though an update to Froyo 2.2 is planned.

Device makers like Dell are clamoring to break in to the touchscreen tablet market, where Apple has made a splash with the success of its multi-touch iPad. The iPad sold more than 3 million in its first three months, and retail expansion is expected to help push the device to 21 million in 2011.