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While the smartphone tech race is pretty much over, there's plenty of gold in them there tablet hills, as Apple and Samsung may clash, toe-to-toe, next February with new cutting-edge models. Grab your pom-poms and start cheering for your favorite now!

Get Ready To Rumble

With the launch of Amazon's Kindle Fire upsetting the Apple-cart in recent weeks, and ASUS' Transformer Prime getting rave reviews and out in January, the tablet war is hotting up. For a start, you can bet that the iOS company is planning a deep-and-wide family strategy (with models at various screen sizes and budgets) for the iPad in the near future. However, the third iteration will likely be another big feature advance to keep up its momentum.

But, at the same time, its main rival in the power stakes, Samsung, is planning to launch a new tablet, packing all its own latest screen technology. it will also be armed with Google's latest Ice Cream Sandwich edition of Android. This will make for a battle royal, as Samsung tries to put a big dent in Apple's sales, ignoring the new round of monotonous patent litigation these launches will probably spark.

In Glorious Hi-Def

The big sell for both systems will be the latest in hi-res displays with Samsung using its own technology to offer an 11.6" tablet with a 2560 x 1600 display. Word is this tablet won't be much larger than the current 10" Galaxy Tab as it uses less bezel.  Apple has been working with Sharp on a display that doubles the resolution of the current model. It should run at 2048 x 1536, but what's a few pixels between friends? 

Inside there will probably be processor, radio and other upgrades, but most users only care about what they can see on those lovely screens and, again, Apple's iTunes and app store will probably see it outsell the Samsung, but not by as much as previous iterations.

Aficionados will also be looking for design tweaks, with Samsung having turned up the heat with its recent Nexus phone and Apple now looking lackluster with the recent 4S launch, not that an old design stopped it selling. Will there be new twists on the designs, or new materials? Or, will both companies decide that budget is key and tone down the excesses on exotic styling? Nah!

Anyone Else Want to Play?

These advances also pretty much signal the death knell for the lingering pretenders to the throne including RIM's Playbook. Asian white-box vendors will keep lapping up the low-end and gradually improve their offerings. Give them a couple of years, and tablets might be as generic and cheap as aspirin.

That also means, Microsoft will now be coming into the game even later and further behind the field with its Windows 8 offerings. Samung will be quite happy shipping the new Android 4.0 while Apple, with a new iOS 5.1 update due to ship soon, will likely cram Siri and other new toys into any 5.2 or 5.5 release.