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Tablet Wars Heat Up: Google Unveils Nexus 7, iPad Sales Slip, New Kindle Fires Rumored, Nook in Limbo

Google has unveiled its new Nexus 7 tablet and an upgraded version of its Android operating system, the latest moves in the heated battle to capture the market for multi-purpose digital devices.

USA Today reports:

Three versions of the tablet will be available: Wi-Fi only 16GB and 32GB models for $229 and $269 respectively, and the 4G LTE version launching in the coming weeks.

Earlier this week Apple reported that it sold 14.6 million iPads in the third quarter, down from 17 million during the same period the previous year. The company attributed the decline to a tough comparison with last year, when the latest generation iPad had just come out.

Meanwhile, tech website BGR earlier this month cited “trusted sources” who say Amazon is preparing to roll out a new lineup of Kindle Fire devices in time for the holiday shopping season. Amazon has not commented.

The biggest wildcard in the tablet game may be Barnes & Noble’s Nook. The once promising device had been losing money so quickly that last month B&N said it would no longer manufacture the color tablets (but would continue with the black and white e-readers). Two weeks later,  B&N CEO William Lynch resigned, stoking speculation of a Nook Media sell-off, possibly to a tech company (Microsoft?) willing to invest in reviving the faltering business.

With all these companies competing to put tablets into readers’ hands, the most likely winner is the ebook market, where sales continue to grow at double-digit rates.