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Although Apple’s iPad has dominated the tablet market consistently since first launching in 2010, Google threw down the gauntlet to its Cupertino-based rival by launching the Nexus 7. Prior to the 7-inch slate, which was manufactured by ASUS, the only non-Apple tablet to create any sort of hype was Amazon’s Kindle Fire, and although it – similarly to the Nexus 7 – was priced at an incredibly low price compared to the rest of the market, it didn’t quite pack the performance we’d come to expect, and essentially felt like a cheap alternative.

The Nexus 7, as well as being on-point in terms of price, was the first device to ship with Google’s buttery smooth Android Jelly Bean (4.1), and with a sharp display, quad-core Tegra 3 and free Play Store credit in many regions, many raced to buy the device.

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It seemed unbelievable that Google could sell such an impressive device at an insanely low price, but off the back of the current Nexus 7′s success, it’s reported Google is plotting a $99 edition of the slate, set to release later on this year.

The cheaper, smaller tablets have emerged as great eBook readers, and, sensing a threat, Apple is expected to launch its 7.85-inch iPad Mini at some point next month. Some have suggested Apple may even break the sub-$200 barrier, which would surely see sales go through the roof, but if Google can counter by hitting $99, the rush of the holiday season will be beautifully poised in terms of competition.

The source of the scoop is DigiTimes, and since their reports can often be hit-and-miss, we’re certainly a tad apprehensive to say the least, but ASUS is said to be behind two new versions of the Nexus 7 tablet. The second one will retail at $199, and both are expected to be thinner than the current iteration, which is already fairly svelte compared with most other tablets around.

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Although the even cheaper Nexus is seen as a response to the iPad Mini, Amazon’s recently-overhauled Kindle Fire series will also be scouting for the consumer eye, and with Barnes & Noble having introduced the brand-new 9-inch Nook HD+ starting at $199 for the 7-inch, 8GB model, the battle for tablet supremacy is shaping up to be as interesting as the smartphone one.

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