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Google and HTC, its bosom buddy hardware manufacturer, have spent the last 18 months developing touch-screen tablets, according to a report out of Australia.

The Mountain View-based world power and the Taiwan-based hardware maker have produced "several working models" of a touch tablet, sources tell the Aussie publication Smarthouse, and this includes one prototype based on Google's still-gestating Chrome OS operating system.

HTC manufactured the inaugural cellphone based on Google's Android mobile operating system, and myriad reports peg the company as the manufacturer of the Android-based Nexus One, a Google-designed and Google-branded phone set for unveiling tomorrow.

In November, Google open sourced an early version of its browser-based Chrome OS, and it says that machines based on the operating system will arrive towards the end of 2010. Google says the first machines based on the OS will be netbooks, but it has not mentioned tablets per se. The company has released a list of partners its working with on Chrome OS machines, and this does not include HTC.

Word of a Google-HTC tablet come as an avalanche of rumor points to Steve Jobs and Apple unveiling a Macintosh tablet, allegedly dubbed iSlate, on January 26. It would appear that Apple is working closely with newspaper, book, and magazine publishers to offer specialized content for its rumored device, and though some have questioned whether Google would take the same path, a tablet is a natural fit for the company's controversial Google Books project, an effort to scan texts inside the world's research libraries, post them to the web, and rewrite copyright law. ®

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