The dust has settled since the launch of Apple’s iPad 2 tablet and it’s pretty clear that no competing tablet computer is going to dethrone the iPad anytime soon. The Motorola Xoom had a lot of promise, but launched at too high a price and missing features like Flash support and comparable apps that could have differentiated it from the iPad. There’s still hope for the Android powered tablets and others in the future, but this round belongs to Apple.

While I don’t really expect Blackberry’s upcoming Playbook or Samsung’s new Wi-Fi only Galaxy Tab to make a dent in the iPad’s dominance, at least they are launching priced to play ball. The 16GB Playbook is priced at $499 which matches the entry level iPad. I saw a Circuit City ad for the 16GB Galaxy Tab 7″ tablet for $349, but it appears that they don’t have any available right now. Those price points suggest that Blackberry and Samsung are serious about competing head to head with Apple in the tablet sector. As the Xoom’s paltry 100K units sold has proven, tablets that cost more than the iPad that are not made by Apple will not sell.

I won’t go into their features here because all of these tablets are well spec’d and I think any of them would be a fine choice. The important thing is that now the consumer will have a choice in the sub-$500 price range, without getting locked into a data contract. The iPad has a lot of other good things going for it, like the Apple Stores, but now we’ll be able to really see if the tablet market is a passing Apple only fad, or something that is here to stay.

Update: Sadly it appears that the Blackberry Playbook is not quite ready to play afterall. This NYT review says that while the Playbook is due for release April 19th, it is shipping with a littany of missing features.

But — are you sitting down? — at the moment, BlackBerry Bridge is the only way to do e-mail, calendar, address book and BlackBerry Messenger on the PlayBook. The PlayBook does not have e-mail, calendar or address book apps of its own. You read that right. R.I.M. has just shipped a BlackBerry product that cannot do e-mail. It must be skating season in hell. (R.I.M. says that those missing apps will come this summer.)

This is absolute madness, just madness…