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Summary:

Motorola’s Xoom has its first software update, but it’s mainly to prep for Adobe Flash, which arrives next week. Analysts say that Xoom sales are underwhelming and while Flash may help, Motorola needs to work with Google to bring stability to the Xoom tablet.

xoom-featured

Motorola’s Xoom tablet is now getting its first software update in preparation for Adobe’s Flash Player 10.2 next week. That may not be enough to spur interest; one analyst today describes the Xoom sales as “tepid” to this point. Part of the challenge revolves around improving device stability because consumers will compare the tablet’s user experience and ease of use to Apple’s iPad 2, which launches today. So far, Xoom isn’t mounting much of challenge.

Indeed, my own hands-on experiences with the Xoom have shown an operating system that appears to be rushed: few apps are optimized for Google’s Honeycomb platform, the memory card slot can’t be used and core apps crash on occasion. Compared to the iPad experience, the Xoom shows plenty of potential, but may not be ready for prime time as a consumer electronics device.

I had hoped that this first software update would address some of those concerns, but Android Update (HRI66) is a small 15.4 MB in size and the description doesn’t mention any major fixes:

And after the installation, which went without a hitch, I didn’t see any improvements in terms of stability: an application crashed within five minutes. This instability may be impacting sales of the Xoom according to Jefferies analyst Peter Misek, who provided this statement to ZDNet:

Xoom sales have been underwhelming. While marketing has just started we believe MMI will likely have to cut production if it already has not done so. We believe the device has been a bit buggy and did not meet the magic price point of $500.

Misek takes it a step further and expects Motorola to cut production due to lower than expected demand. And he said Motorola could even drop prices to better compete with Apple’s offering, though it may not have much room to move pricing. Part of the issue stems from having no low-priced, Wi-Fi only model to compete with the $499 starting point for an iPad 2 — or now $399 for an original iPad. Instead, Xoom is offered in a one-size-fits-all $799 model, unless consumers opt for a 2-year contract to save $200 up front.

Even though the Xoom was pushed out the door a little too early, the fact remains: it’s out there. Motorola can drop production or cut prices, but the best remedy is to invest every effort possible with Google to bring the Honeycomb experience to the level that customers expect for a consumer electronics device.

Adding Flash could help offset other issues for some, but it remains to be seen how well Flash does or doesn’t run on the device. I’ve seen poor Flash performance on devices with a single core although I expect Flash to run better on the Xoom due to its use of Nvidia’s Tegra 2   chip: it has two CPU cores and advanced graphics capabilities.

Flash alone isn’t enough though. Tech saavy folks and device tinkers may not mind dealing with application crashes, but the average consumer surely won’t. Given the iPad 2 sales frenzy underway right now, Motorola has to step on the gas pedal to turn a marginal tablet experience into a positive one.

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  1. I have to agree with this. Xoom was rushed to market and it does have some issues. They should never have released it with missing microSD support even though the slot is there, missing 4G hardware (who wants to ship their Xoom away for a week to get the upgrade) and a huge shortage of tablet optimized apps. I love my Xoom and knew of these shortcomings but also know it is a Google device which will receive frequent updates. But the release was sloppy and expensive. Paying $800 to be a beta tester is extreme and even more extreme for the average consumer. I am very optimistic that all of these issues will be corrected but I am afraid the damage will already be done to give Xoom a bad reputation. Very bad move to release it before it is complete.

  2. so tablets can bypass the carriers & get updates straight from the Mothership (Google)?

    does this mean an end to fragmentation?

  3. albeit rushed. I personally prefer the XOOM.

    i prefer it’s ability to produce sound that is loud enough for humans to hear (and then some).

    the software update – to utilize Micro SD – is only a minor annoyance… have you used up all of your 32GBs already? i doubt.

    You will !!!NOT!!! have to ship your XOOM away for a week or two. the 4G upgrade will be as easy as going to your local VZW store for 5 minutes…

    i don’t soley think that the graphics are lacking so much due to Motorola’s choice of resolution; and, i am certain that with a few updates, XOOM’s graphics and bugs will be quickly attended to.

    Flash is an amazing addition to why Androids are preferrable: who enjoys enjoys they dead silence and unanimated web-browsing of Apple devices? Not I. Especially on websites that do not have non-flash or mobile-specific versions for viewing. — i haven’t checked lately, but i’m sure if it’s not already out, there will soon be a downloadable tweak to counter the mobile proxy, and enable all full web-browsing for websites.

    once 10.2 flash and a nvidia gfx upgrade are available, i’d like to see developers begin to truely innovate the apps-world for android (tablet especially). i understand the frustration with the mobile phones (as there are multiple OS flavors due to multi-manufacturers) but this XOOM tab should be developers main focus…

    not to mention, 3rd party developers do not have to fight up with counter-ing, disable-ing updates – like with Apple OS updates… a main reason i long ago sold my iPhone…

    apple OS updates are so concentrated on undoing cracks from the 3rd-party world, that it begins to become annoying after a while… [apple. we've bought the phone already, stop trying to control us.]

    but, to all the grandparents who enjoy the simplicity of Apple products: enjoy.

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