RE Q1: Sure. It's done all the time. In fact, I have tile for my backsplash (and laminated countertops.) Where the 2 'materials' meet, I have a bead of caulk. Of course, the key is to make sure you do a good grout and caulk job.
RE Q2a: It depends, to me, on the room and how the room is used. Also, it depends on the type of flooring you have 'underneath'. (You'll need to give this info to me for my $.02 ...)
RE Q2b: References from folks that have had hardwood installed is a good start. Just start asking around, and if you get a lot of 'No' answers, ask THEM if they have any friends that had hardwood installed. IMO, the 'best' installers are the ones that work for themselves, or where the Owner does your home (as opposed to his 'helpers'.) You can always ask for the Owner to do the job ...
I'll be listening for more from you (and others.) For now, my best to ya and hope this helps.