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The iPad 2 is far outrunning its rivals in terms of worldwide awareness, according to Google Trends. As you can see from the chart below, people are Googling the iPad 2 far more than they are the Motorola Xoom or the Samsung Galaxy Tab. The same holds true for rivals such as the Amazon Kindle, the HP TouchPad, and the RIM PlayBook.

If this kind of awareness is a good harbinger of sales, then Apple may be poised to dominate the market for tablets in 2011, as Apple Steve Jobs predicted at the iPad 2 debut event and as we mostly agreed in our own analysis.

Google Trends isn’t a perfect measure of how well a product will sell. But it does show that people are searching for information about the iPad 2 far more than they are the rival products in the past 30 days.

As we noted earlier this week, the iPad 2 won praises among key reviewers because it is thinner, lighter, and faster than the original iPad that debuted 11 months ago. Those positive reviews, which started appearing on Thursday, likely helped boost the awareness of the iPad 2. As you can see from the Google Trends chart, iPad 2 awareness rose dramatically on March 2 when Apple fully described the product.

We’ll get some concrete information if Apple announces sales results for the weekend, as it usually does after a major launch. It isn’t clear just yet whether the stores are selling out of their supplies or not, but the crowds certainly came out on Friday night for the launch. Analysts are predicting that Apple could sell 600,000 iPad 2s this weekend. The original iPad sold 300,000 in its first 24 hours, but analysts such as Gleacher’s Brian Marshall and Tim Bajarin of Creative Strategies think that Apple will blow those numbers away this time.

I saw a huge crowd at the Palo Alto, Calif., store on Friday afternoon, but the Los Gatos, Calif., store (pictured at top) was kind of sparse on the chilly Saturday evening tonight. Meanwhile, VentureBeat’s Owen Thomas saw a big crowd (pictured below) lined up to buy iPad 2s at the store on Saturday, in Austin, Texas, where the South By Southwest (SXSW) show was being held. These snippets don’t mean much, as they’re just a tiny sampling of the 10,000 stores — including 236 Apple stores — selling the iPad 2. A year ago, Apple sold the iPad in 221 Apple stores and 1,100 other stores at launch. So it’s understandable that the lines would be smaller at this year’s launch events.

Awareness of other tablets may change once they hit the market. The Motorola Xoom is the only contemporary tablet on the market, but at $829 it has disadvantages compared to Apple’s $499 to $829 prices across multiple models with varying memory sizes.

But even after the others draw attention to themselves with launch events, it will be tough to beat Apple. ChangeWave Research said a survey conducted last month in the U.S. showed 82 percent of those planning to buy a tablet in the next three months said they would buy an iPad. The Xoom got just 4 percent of the vote, while the RIM PlayBook and the first-generation Samsung Galaxy Tab got 3 percent each.

During the fourth quarter, Apple snagged 73 percent of the tablet market, according to market researcher IDC. (Apple said it had 90 percent of the market worldwide). For all of 2010, Apple had 83 percent of the market. Through the end of December, Apple said it sold nearly 15 million iPads, making it one of the fastest-growing products ever. Samsung claimed that it shipped 2 million tablets out to stores, but the actually sell-through rate to customers was reportedly very low.

Forrester Research predicted that Apple’s Android rivals would falter in the market because of “fatally flawed product strategies.” The rivals are too expensive and they can’t match the upscale Apple Stores as great sales channels. Forrester said that consumers attribute more value to Apple products because of the great in-store service.

So Forrester is predicting that Apple will have at least 80 percent of the U.S. consumer tablet market in 2011. It said Amazon, maker of the Kindle eBook reader, might have a chance to disrupt Apple if it comes out with a clever Android or Linux-based tablet. But Amazon has not yet made its move into the tablet space.

Mike Rayfield, general manager of mobile chips for Nvidia, is in the rival camp, as his company’s Tegra 2 is in the Motorola Xoom and other tablets. He said last week that he thinks the market will change as soon as more of the rivals get their products out into the market by the middle of the year. Some of those tablets will have very competitive features.

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