At one point, tablet computing was said to be the future of computing.   Companies like Microsoft were pushing forward with tablet computers that seemed ahead of the times.  The product development and execution were anything but successful.  Years later, tablets are making a comeback in a way that wasn’t possible the first time around.

CrunchPad Tablet

What began as an open source do-it-yourself project back in mid-2008 crunchpad has since been transformed to full-on product development by Michael Arrington of TechCrunch.  The original goal: a “dead simple web tablet for $200”.  The tablet would have virtually no internal storage, save for a small amount to store a custom OS that boots directly into a web browser.  Everything would be saved via the cloud, available anywhere.

Since the idea began, three different prototypes have been developed, the most recent appearing to be a near-final product.  The Straits Times reported the CrunchPad would ship with a 1.6-Ghz processor, 1 GB RAM, and a built-in 3G port for uber-mobile broadband connectivity.  Most recently Michael Arrington has discussed the product’s price point at “between $300 and $400”.

Microsoft Courier

When details broke on a supposed Microsoft Courier tablet, hope and speculation ran rampant.  Gizmodo reported that it’s in the “late prototype” stage of development meaning, if it’s real, it could launch sometime in 2010.  The Courier would consist of a two screens that fold closed like a book with a camera on the back cover.  Users would interact with the device with both multitouch finger input and a stylus for writing and drawing.

courierThe device shown in videos has an ultra-futuristic user interface that’d be unlike anything Microsoft has released before.  If what we’re seeing in the video comes close to what the product actually does, the device will be a huge success. These rumors will continue every year until Apple releases it.

Apple Tablet

An Apple Tablet has been rumored for years.  As each year begins to wind down, rumors start swirling of a tablet announcement appletablet at MacWorld.  With 2009’s MacWorld being Apple’s last, it still seems we can’t escape the rumors.  Here we are again, with more rumors and speculation than ever that Apple is going to release their tablet in the first half of 2010.

Whether it’ll run a variation of the iPhone OS or a custom version of the desktop OS is still anyone’s guess, many analysts expect the former with instant access to the 100,000+ applications available in the App Store.  Unlike the Courier and CrunchPad, speculation is centered around the device’s media playback capabilities to further expand Apple’s iTunes ecosystem.

As competing companies reportedly halted production on similar devices, the race to launch a viable touchscreen tablet have rested mainly on Apple’s shoulders.  Will Arrington or Microsoft beat Apple to the tablet punch or will we see the three targeting different market segments with completely unique experiences?  Let us know what you think 2010 has in store for the computing world.