Do you know what word Dave Caolo is hearing in his sleep? Tablet. What phrase is trending mightily on Google Search? Tablet. What is every Apple fanboy and fangirl dreaming of for...um...some new gift-giving holiday in the March/April timeframe? Tablet. It's what good little geeks hope to find on their doorstep if their credit cards are not maxed out and Apple ships on the rumored schedule.
In addition to bringing world peace, universal vaccination, and rainbow puppy unicorns, the tablet carries its own compliment of mobile issues: specifically, how and how well will it connect? This is a question we were kicking around this morning in the TUAW chatroom, after encountering a number of speculative reports in our morning RSS feed. Rather than predict which way Apple is going to go, we thought we'd run down the most likely possibilities.
We all agree that a tablet would be, at a minimum, no less connected than an iPod touch. That is, none of us think that Apple will ship a tablet sans Wi-Fi connectivity. And with McDonalds now offering free Wi-Fi at over 11,000 restaurants world wide, let alone sponsored municipal Wi-Fi, new Wi-Fi for pay services on airplanes, and other commuter-based Wi-Fi services, you can easily imagine an urban tablet that works in most major cities around the globe.
A Wi-Fi-only approach, though, cuts out a lot of possibilities for tablet use on the go, when users move away from cities. 3G/4G access, similar to the kinds of deals currently offered on Dell netbooks and laptops, might be a way for Apple to go as well. Of course, that would involve signing up for 2-year contracts at outrageous prices (it doesn't matter who does the service, the prices are outrageous across vendors). That could seriously put off existing iPhone contract holders, who might not be willing to expand their obligations to another multi-year commitment.