The Google Tablet Is Coming, Courtesy of Verizon

The first serious challenge to the Apple iPad is coming from the most obvious of teams: According to Verizon Chief Exec Lowell McAdam, the carrier is working with Google on "a tablet computer." This should be fun.

The WSJ report is about as sparse as possible, mentioning nothing beyond the fact that Verizon wants a tablet, and are now working with Google. Says McAdam:

We're looking at all the things Google has in its archives that we could put on a tablet to make it a great experience.

I'm guessing that didn't come out quite right, but I'll hazard a guess that this means the the partnership is brand new, and that neither company knows exactly how they're going to move forward. I hope for the sake of both companies, and us, that this means that Google is working with Verizon on making the ultimate Android tablet, and that Chrome OS will get brushed aside until it's a bit, er, better.

Let's play a little game of best case/worst case, shall we?

Best Case

Google's ready to prove its tablet mettle, and Verizon wants an answer to AT&T's iPad. It's Shakespearean, almost, kind of! Within months, AT&T and Verizon will fall deeply in love, and commit suicide due to an easily avoidable misunderstanding. No, wait, wrong play. I wanted the one where EVERYONE FIGHTS EVERYONE, AND IT IS AWESOME. This could mean:

• An Android tablet launched with the backing of a major carrier, and presumably a high-profile hardware manufacturer (Motorola?)
• Hardware within six months
• An interesting data pricing strategy from Verizon, which will need to compete with AT&T novel (but flawed) a la carte system
• An early start against other tablets, specifically from the newly invigorated Palm
• WAR

Worst Case

Sometimes Google is unfocused. Sometimes Verizon is out of touch. With their powers combined, we could end up with:

• A Chrome OS tablet. Web-only tablets aren't as cool as you'd think. Google and Verizon need to beat the iPad, not the JooJoo. Remember this concept? Eh. Eric Schmidt reportedly told people that the first Google tablet would run Android, but you never know.
• Massive lead time. Android was announced in November of 2007, which was interpreted (correctly) as Google's move to compete with the iPhone. Problem is, the T-Mobile G1 didn't ship until nearly a year later. This tablet needs to hit the market well before the next iteration of the iPad, and at least as quickly as whatever WebOS slate HP is working on right now.
• Stupid data pricing. Verizon took Microsoft's promising new Kin and strangled it in the delivery room. A traditional contract, or overpriced data, could do the same to a tablet.
• A raw Android tablet. The iPad has problems, nearly all of which Android is poised to avoid—but that could befall it, if Google hasn't been paying attention. I'm talking about better media support, open accessory compatibility, and a syncing app that exists, but isn't necessary for the device to function.

Granted, this whole thing could be a public bargaining strategy for Verizon, a misrepresentation of the facts by an executive who doesn't seem to have a perfectly clear view of the facts, or mere hot air. But I don't want to believe that. I can't. [WSJ]