You’ve heard it time after time: Apple dominates the tablet market with its groundbreaking iPad and everyone else is relegated to bit player.

That’s about to change. Think about it: Apple came out with the Macinotsh because it wanted to leapfrog the PC. Those early PCs were clunky targets and easy to beat when it came ease of use (don’t hear that term much anymore, do you?). Now, the PC makers have the iPad to leapfrog and it’s hard it imagine at least a couple won’t. Here”s what’s coming: 

Microsoft is considering developing its own Windows 8 branded tablet a la the Xbox and Zune business model. Nothing is certain yet, but that would put in direct competition with its best customers, the PC makers. A source of mine who usually quite circumspect about Microsoft told me this morning: “I am really am hoping the Win8 tablets are as cool as the demo made them look.” Watch the video and you’ll get a feel for how Windows 8 will run on a tablet. 

Another interesting tablet is HP’s Touchpad due out before the end of this month. What distinguishes it will be its orientation toward enterprises and business, HP CEO Leo Apotheker told customers at the HP Discover conference going on this week in Las Vagas. The TouchPad runs the  webOS operating system whose roots are in the former Palm Computing, which HP acquired a year ago. 

That means HP’s new Palm Pre3 and Veer 4G phones will be tightly coupled with the tablet. In fact, its Touchstone technology allows, for instance, a phone user to share a web page by touching it to the tablet. HP’s web site has all the details on the TouchPad and tech specs.

So if you’re about the place a big order for PC notebooks, you just might want to check out what’s coming in tablets first – because that space just got a whole lot more interesting.

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