Slate (or tablet) devices will begin coming to market in a big way next year from a host of manufacturers and developers. And Google — with its Chrome OS — is well-positioned to quickly become a leader in the space.

Next year is shaping up to be the year of the slate computer: Verizon Wireless expects slates to come to market in a big way in 2010; Apple appears to be mere weeks away from introducing its much-hyped tablet, rumored to be dubbed iSlate; and a handful of Android-based devices are already making their way to retail shelves. Google could move the needle with a rumored no-frills slate that would be available on the cheap — or even free — to users willing to sign up for 2-year data plans. And with its Chrome OS, the company is well-positioned to quickly become a leader in the space.

Like netbooks, slates have an obvious appeal, combining intuitive touchscreen interfaces with improved processing power and better screens than most phones can boast. Apple’s iPod touch has proven there’s a market for such gadgets. The question, though, is which operating systems are best positioned to gain traction as slate sales ramp up? Apple’s entry is likely to have either a full Mac OS X operating system or a modified version of the iPhone platform. Jolicloud, a startup that pocketed $4.2 million in venture capital earlier this year, is negotiating with manufacturers to package its impressive OS with their hardware. Moblin is garnering positive reviews for the latest release of its mobile operating system, which Kevin at jkOnTheRun believes is particularly well-suited for devices that are smaller than netbooks. Fusion Garage’s JooJoo is also receiving praise for its proprietary, Linux-based OS, although the gadget’s $500 price tag will surely limit its appeal.

The biggest winner in the space, though, is likely to be Google’s Chrome, as James at jkOnTheRun hinted last week. Google’s new OS is a natural fit for small mobile Internet devices, and the company has solidified the kind of carrier relationships necessary to sell subsidized devices through a wide variety of retail outlets. Apple, JooJoo and others may find an audience for high-end devices with price tags to match. But Google and its Chrome OS could absolutely own the slate space if the search giant can offer hardware for just a few bucks — but packaged with a lengthy data contract.

Image courtesy Flickr user nDevilTV.

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  1. If Google offers it real cheap or free I can just see the Justice Dept. coming down on them just like Microsoft with the free IE back in the day.

  2. Pooh on lengthy contracts! Ditto $500 per item.

    Free? Not likely. But I can see it approaching the cost of development and production.

    To sell, the hardware needs to be priced low enough to attract MANY buyers from day one. Then the fees need to be competitive to the point that the consumers chooses that particular ‘slate’ over others. Naturally, the system running the ‘slate’ needs to function smoothly as well as be flexible enough to upgrade with the next generation of wireless.

  3. An Apple slate isn’t even delivered and yet some already predict a killer from Google Tuesday, December 29, 2009

    [...] coming from the usual suspects known for this pageview inducing rumor mongering. No – it is coming from GigOM in a post written by Colin Gibbs: Google could move the needle with a rumored no-frills slate that would be available on the cheap [...]

  4. After seeing the potential leaked pricing for the Nexus One (http://mashable.com/2009/12/29/nexus-one-price/) I strongly doubt that this thing would even approach being free but $800-$400 sounds more likely a range for this device, even though it’s unlikely that it’ll come out next year.

  5. Why a Google Slate could dominate – Viewsflow Wednesday, December 30, 2009

    [...] GigaOm sees 2010 as the year of the computer tablet or slate or whatever Apple decides to call its device. But with its Chrome OS and very cheap hardware, Google could dominate the space.Close [...]

  6. I don’t expect many people will go for the data contracts for these things. They are unproven. I don’t think you are going to see people waiting in lines to sign up for another 2 year contract at $60/month. Many of these people already have iPhones etc. It’s not hard to rationalize the expense of an iPhone or Blackberry with a data plan because you have to have a phone. A data plan for a tablet is a lot harder to rationalize.

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