Will Tablet Computers Rock 2010? Ask Apple, Freescale, Qualcomm…

Freescale's $199 tabletSmartphones are built to resemble computers as much as possible, with the exception of size and added features like multitouch. When the best of mobile — touch screen features and ability to connect to the web at all times — meets a portable tablet, the entire mobile and computing industry just may be turned on its head.

With all the buzz about Apple’s upcoming tablet (which is still a rumor, but likely a reality given that they have the technology and others are already publicly announcing plans to attack the market this year.) Thanks to portable devices such as e-readers, and plenty of high-tech tablets appearing in sci-fi films such as the box office hit Avatar, Americans are getting used to the idea of a tablet computer.

The real questions are — who will put out the best tablet computer and how long will cost prohibit the masses from buying these machines? When the price is lowered enough to be competitive, what industry will the tablet disrupt — Mobile? Laptops? Netbooks? All of the above? The opportunities for mobile marketing clearly multiply if these tablets become commonplace over the next decade.

Touch-screen tablets may not be cost prohibitive, it turns out, but Apple may not be fighting the mass market yet, others are. This month at CES, look for a whole lot of tablet announcements. Freescale is set to unveil a $199 7-inch touchscreen tablet (stats here).

“The PC has been stale in terms of its ability to innovate. Smartphones have been making progress, but they have limitiations,” said Henri Richard, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Freescale, in a statement. Look for similar announcements by Qualcomm Inc and Nvidia Corp unveiling smartbooks this month at CES.