January 20, 2010, 7:35 PM — OK, let's imagine that Apple has pulled some insane bit of Apple brilliance out of the pile of genius they keep in a secret vault under their Cupertino headquarters, and have come up with a solution to the "How do you get text into a tablet" problem, one that's easy and fun and painfully obvious, in retrospect. Let's move to the next problem on the list: how does the tablet connect to the rest of the world?
Well, this one seems obvious: wirelessly, duh. Obviously the tablet will have Wi-Fi connectivity. But will it go beyond that and connect to some kind of 3G network as well? In other words, will the tablet be a giant iPod Touch or a giant iPhone? This is one of the big question marks about the thing, with a persistent rumor (re-emerging just today) being that Verizon, the sweet sweet promised network to iPhone users who hate AT&T, will be providing the backbone for the network in the U.S. Verizon's tougher network ought to be able to absorb the media-streaming onslaught that the tablet represents, the logic goes. Here's my main question: how much is it going to cost you?
Analysts and naysayers love to say that Apple products cost too much, which certainly doesn't stop people from buying them in great numbers. But there's a difference between paying a pretty penny for something you think is great once, and signing up for a hefty recurring charge, as you would if you need to buy data access with a tablet. One of the great appeal of Amazon's Kindle is that you get free wireless access everywhere. This is possible because Amazon subsidizes the connectivity, which, since the Kindle is a mostly text-based animal, doesn't cost too much. But there's no way Apple will be able to shoulder that burden. The question is whether tablet users -- who will almost certainly already have cell phone plans to feed and care for -- will.