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Last year, Google CEO Eric Schmidt (pictured) said that the company planned to market its own Android tablets within the next six months. Now the supply chain is rumbling with rumors about who the manufacturer will be.

The Wall Street Journal‘s anonymous sources point to both Asus and Samsung as potential manufacturers for the tablets, which would be co-branded with Google’s logo, and sold in an online store run by Google later this year.

While Google hasn’t named any exact timing yet, Schmidt did say in December 2011 that the project had a six-month waiting period ahead of it. However, Google I/O, the company’s annual blowout two-day conference is slated to take place in late June. Without consulting the office’s Magic 8-Ball, we can expect with some level of confidence to hear more news on the tablet then, as well as the newest Android operating system version, Jelly Bean.

As a refresher, Schmidt told an Italian publication in December, “In the next six months, we plan to market a tablet of the highest quality.” Referring to the success of the iPad and the relative lack of success of comparable Android tablets … In mobile communications, the smartphone market, you will see brutal competition between Apple and Google Android. It is capitalism.”

In our recent review of the new iPad, editor Devindra Hardawar wrote, “It feels so much better than any Android tablet that I’ve tested (and that’s a lot of tablets), that it’s sort of embarrassing for Google… Android will continue to shine in the low-end market, with devices like the Kindle Fire, but you’d be hard-pressed to consider those direct competitors to the iPad.”

It could be that Google is beginning to feel the same way, based on Schmidt’s “of the highest quality” stipulation. Part of the problem has been that only the most recent Android tablets are using a tablet-optimized operating system, others relying on clunky, poor interfaces of Android versions past. A new, Google-led, best-in-class offering might be able to turn the tide.

Image courtesy of Jolie O’Dell

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