Is 2010 the Year of the Tablet?

Wired’s Brian X. Chen speculates on 2010 being ‘the year of the tablet’. With releases from Apple, Astak, Kindle in the UK, the CrunchPad (probably the best looking of the bunch) it seems more and more likely.

But will it truly be the year of the tablet? The cheapest readers, the new 5” Sony PRS-300 comes in at $199, and the aforementioned Astak offering at $159 (USD for both), lack wireless connectivity. Sure, iPods were expensive, but they were new and fun and we all have iPhones already. People are starting to get used to cheap tech, especially when buying a device that you need to buy more things to use. It’s like paying entry to a flea market.

And yes, I’m lumping in readers with tablets, (web-browsing touchscreen mini-computers), but with good reason. Because other than reading, why the heck would you want a tablet? To draw pictures? Take notes? As Jeremy Toeman of LIVEdigitally points out:

About the only other thing a tablet will be good at is a finger painting application, which my 2-year-old would love. For about 5 minutes until his short attention span moves onto the cardboard box he was playing with yesterday. Oh, and FreeCella tablet would be a killer FreeCell device. Awesome.

Chen’s most persuasive argument

comes via word to from a well-connected industry executive that mainstream heavyweights Dell and Intel are collaborating on a touchscreen tablet due for release next year.

Yeah, obviously, but…

As notable as the format is the business model: The tablet will be free for consumers who opt into a contract subscribing to one or more digital media subscriptions, according to our source. That’s similar to how telecom companies currently subsidize cellphones when customers agree to two-year contracts.

Monthly packages? This actually sounds like a viable idea. If you could get 20 newspapers on a portable device, pay, let’s say, $15 a month, would you? I would certainly think about it. Could I get it as part of a cellphone plan? Could I web surf on my portable device? Actually, if I could surf, I could still read the NYTimes online. And the Globe and Mail. Washington Post. Toronto Star. And I guess I couldn’t take my New Yorker into the bath. And if I dropped my back pack, which I do constantly, it would break my… newspaper?

I still want a CrunchPad.