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SAN FRANCISCO, Nov 1 (Reuters) – Intel Corp (NASDAQ:INTC) is on track to launch an improved chip platform aimed at the fast-expanding tablet market, where so far it has trailed nimble competitors that specialize in cheap low-power processors.

Code-named Oak Trail and due to begin shipping in early 2011, the chips have much-improved energy efficiency and hold their own compared to processors made by rivals, Marketing Director Anil Nanduri told Reuters.

"The biggest power part of the tablet is the panel. In terms of an idle-use case we are competitive in a tablet usage compared to any other solution out there," he told Reuters in an interview on Monday.

Sales of tablet computers have exploded since Apple Inc (NASDAQ:AAPL) launched its iPad in January and Intel is anxious to stake a claim in the market as manufacturers like Samsung Electronics Co (005930.KS), Hewlett-Packard Co (NYSE:HPQ) and Dell Inc (DELL.O) launch competing products.

Tablet shipments should grow by nearly 200 percent next year, while notebooks and other PCs will expand just 13 percent, according to a recent report by market research firm iSuppli.

Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intel makes the microprocessors that run eight out of 10 personal computers around the world but it has struggled to get its chips into smartphones.

The mobile market is dominated by UK-based ARM Holdings (ARM.L), which licenses designs for energy-efficient chips to Nvidia Corp (NASDAQ:NVDA), Marvell Technology Group Ltd (NASDAQ:MRVL) and Qualcomm Inc (NASDAQ:QCOM).

The microprocessor at the center of Oak Trail lets users watch high-definition video for up to eight hours without recharging their batteries, an improvement from previous versions, Nanduri said. (Reporting by Noel Randewich; Editing by Richard Chang)