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Summary:

The Wi-Fi edition of Motorola’s Xoom tablet will launch March 27 for a suggested price of $599. Widespread availability in major brick-and-mortar retail stores and discounted prices could help, but it’s going to be a few months before sales of this tablet zoom.

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Tablet enthusiasts waiting for a Wi-Fi version of the Motorola Xoom tablet won’t be waiting much longer: The Google Honeycomb slate launches on March 27 in a number of retail outlets. Wednesday, Motorola announced a price of $599 for the Xoom, which has the same specifications of the $799 edition, aside from the integrated mobile broadband radio for 3G or 4G connectivity.

Taking a cue from Apple, which sells its iPad in various stores, Motorola will sell the Xoom through many different online and brick-and-mortar chains. Amazon.com, Best Buy, Costco, RadioShack, select Sam’s Club locations, Staples and Walmart will all carry the Xoom. But unlike Apple, which typically doesn’t allow discounted prices on its products, I wouldn’t be surprised to see retailers offer the Xoom for less than Motorola’s suggested retail price.

Now that the Xoom will soon be available in a less expensive, unsubsidized Wi-Fi version — something 75 percent of our recent poll respondents are looking for in a tablet — will it sell in large numbers? Google’s Honeycomb platform is still — and will be, even at the end of this month — an unproven, immature tablet system. Aside from the core Google apps, there are few software titles that take advantage of the Xoom’s 10.1-inch display, making some apps look almost comical. And too many apps, even Google’s own, still crash too often for my taste.

On the plus side, by the time the Wi-Fi model is readily available, the Xoom should have received the update needed for Adobe’s Flash Player 10.2. Although it’s going to take time for third-party developers to create tablet versions of their software, I expect we’ll see additional optimized titles for Google Honeycomb devices — not a meaningful number by the end of this month, but perhaps a few top-tier titles will find their way to the Android Market within the next two weeks.

To help spur development, Motorola is holding global developer events in 11 cities across North America, Europe, Latin America and Asia. The first event was recently held in San Francisco, where Motorola says 665 developers attended in order to gain tools, support and Android expertise for app creation. That’s sure to help, but it’s going to take time for a wide array of Honeycomb apps to appear, just as it took time for Android smartphone apps.

It took a good six months after the initial Android phone launch for the platform to start gaining serious software traction, and that’s when Android first got rolling. Wi-Fi model or not, I expect a comparable timeframe to pass before Motorola’s Xoom sales really start zooming. Nearly $600 for what’s a companion device to most is a hard sell unless the experience is bulletproof and the tablet can offer the top-shelf applications that consumers and enterprises want.

  1. “Nearly $600 for what’s a companion device to most is a hard sell. . .”

    For some/many an Android tablet won’t be a companion device. Take a look at the Asus Eee Pad Transformer = tablet/netbook hybrid. For many something like that will be a complete device–all the fun of a tablet with all the functionality of a netbook/notebook lol. This is a significant advantage Android Honeycomb tablets will have over the iPad.

    And I believe prices will drop for Android tablets rather quickly hitting that “sweet spot” research has pointed to as you’ve mentioned in previous articles. As for apps, right now I can find all the necessary apps to be fully functional with Honeycomb. . . most games scale fine and better games are coming to the Tegra platform (Tegra Zone) though, it will take a while form devs to update Android phone apps over to the new fragments for small to large screens, but I think it will happen fast.

    Nonetheless, added competition in the market is a bonus for all consumers!

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    1. Totally agree that for some this won’t be a companion device, but a device replacement. However, based on my own observations and the fact that iPad isn’t cannibalizing Mac laptop sales, the Xoom will be a companion device for most. If it had a keyboard like the Eee Pad, I’d be more inclined to see it as a potential replacement, but the OS is still limited for some.

      Yup, that “sweet spot” will get closer, but that’s going to take a while – not likely in the first half of the year. That gives developers time to build apps though! :)

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      1. Yes, the Xoom’s design does lend itself to be more of a companion device however, iOS devices are designed specifically to be halo devices => to bring more consumers into the Apple ecosystem thus they are intentionally significantly more dependent on a PC/Mac. With a Bluetooth keyboard & mouse the Xoom could easily be a replacement device. . . more hurdles to accomplish that with the iPad. I don’t think we can really correlate what’s taking place with iPad & Mac sales to how that will translate into Android & PC sales in general. On the Android side it could very well translate in a movement away from one ecosystem (most likely Windows) to another (Android).

        I think we might get a good picture of that by the end of this year. Either way. . . fun stuff.

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  2. I think $600 price tag for a Xoom is suicidal. Most folks are waiting to get the feel of a tablet because it is “something new”. People who have $$ to spare have already jumped in. Why would someone pay more than iPad, which has established itself, for a Android tablet. If Android needs it establish itself, it needs to undercut Apple products by at-least $100. $500 is no chump change so unless Honeycomb is crap, which is not true, once people buy a reasonably priced Honeycomb tablet, rarely will they switch to an iPad.

    To add to it, the Xoom commercials are horrible…. I don’t want to be a terminator with my tablet, I want to see WHAT IT CAN DO.

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    1. You may like this commercial though, it’s for the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1″

      Tablets will get cheaper quickly. I bet there will be sales on the Xoom within days of the WiFi version release that will put it at ~$500 and after April when a lot of the big companies release their top of the line Android Honeycomb tablets we will probably be seeing ~$400 which is pretty good considering the tech.

      On a side note . . .
      @Kevin
      Honeycomb tablets just got 400+ additional game apps in one shot–the power of flash! Kongregate Arcade just released their app.
      I got a little chuckle out of it. I guess some people like those types of games lol. Nonetheless they are apps ;)

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      1. Like it…. No man I love this Galaxy Tab commercial. I saw it couple days ago. I was debating whether to include this link in my previous comment. Motorola and its foolish Xoom ad. If a layman sees this commercial when debating between iPad and Honeycomb, it will be a closer duel. Now comes the interesting part… pricing, I wonder what will Samsung do. Lets say, hypothetically, this Galaxy tab 10.1 WiFi is priced at $400, wouldn’t that give iPad2 a run for money. It would put pressure on Samsung margins, but it will sell loads.

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    2. that is a great infomercial.

      I doubt Samsung will be the one to start the price wars but they might. They just announced the 7″ tab for $399 so I doubt we’ll see the 10.1″ for that price. If we did I think it would sell very very well especially considering Samsung’s reach.

      One leak I read showed Asus or Acer releasing a tablet for $449 which means with sales it will be sub $400 and that I believe is scheduled for an April release.

      It’ll get competitive real quick!

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  3. Price, price, price. There will be many more Honeycomb tablets to come, some budget models, so why would someone buy a XOOM WIFI model instead of a GENERIC WIFI model if the price of the generic is much lower?

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    1. You might be surprised but brand does matter. As I said earlier, tablets are “something new” with a coolness factor. When my neighbor shows off his shiny iPad2, I want to be able to show off a brand name Honeycomb tablet and say it can do more and I spent lesser. I don’t want to pull out an “ICAN!” Android tablet that is comparable to Xoom and sells for $300 today on Tigerdirect.
      No matter how hard you convince me given that iPad2 Wifi is $500, I am a duffer if I buy Xoom Wifi for $600.
      Now if Xoom Wifi or Galaxy tab 10.1 Wifi is for $400 (or even $450), I and millions are already sold. [Disclaimer: I hate Apple even though its products are good, I just find it too cocky!!]

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  4. One should read reviews regarding Motorola Xoom. Different strategies in selling the product should also be considered by the company or sellers.

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  5. I can see many comparing the Xoom price point to the iPad 2 $499, but you really have to compare it to the $599 iPad 2. The Xoom in specs compared to the iPad 2 32GB is better for the money. Even at $599. I see Best Buy selling the Xoom Wi-Fi for $499 after a few weeks. I know Apple has more apps to use, and like Kevin mentions overall Android apps need to be updated to take advantage of Honeycomb. Actually my Galaxy Tab fonts and screen is much better than my iPad, and guess which one i use to read on. :)

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    1. How are the specs better? I thought the recent benchmarks show that the ipad2 is almost 2x as fast as the xoom. I could be wrong though.

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      1. Yes performance, the iPad 2 does performs faster, but most specs of hardware; the Xoom is much better. Yes we would need to see the OS take advantage of the hardware to be able to perform much better, like the iPad 2 does. In the mean time the iPad 2 is faster and better in Video, and if you play games only those that are made for the new iPad 2 hardware.

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      2. @Brett
        My guess is that you are referring to the anandtech benchmarks? There are many flaws with those benchmarks especially when comparing different devices and different platforms.
        PcMag also did some bench marks and the Tegra 2 looks to be way ahead of the A5. BUT again you can’t really compare them like that.

        From what I’ve gathered, some of the gpu benchmarks anandtech ran utilize hardware acceleration for the A5 but not for the Tegra 2 which will clearly show in the results. Also, the 30% difference in pixel density makes a huge difference. Just look at several Tegra 2 Android phones and their benchmarks–the phone with the better screen does worse.

        Really the only way to test the two devices right now is to place them side by side and run the same apps or similar apps. The Xoom loads web pages just slightly faster (negligible). The comparison of the exact same games, they both look and respond nearly identical. In other words, both the devices have plenty of horsepower under the hood to do the job at hand.

        As for pure specs, the Xoom is ahead there.
        1GB RAM Vs 512MB RAM
        2/5MP cameras Vs VGA/0.7MP
        USB HDMI ports Vs proprietary dongle
        SD expansion Vs none (dongle for pictures)
        Stereo speakers Vs mono
        HD screen Vs IPS (though many feel that the iPad’s screen “pops” more than the Xoom’s)

        The Xoom is comparable to the $599 iPad 2 32GB model as the Xoom has 32GB also.

        So, if we compare them on specs alone the Xoom does come out to be “ahead” and cheaper especially when you add in the proprietary dongles and the lack of SD expansion.

        However, as has been reported on this site the sweet spot for pricing on tablets is really $350 to $550 as per research. I think we will see many quality tablets in that price range by the holiday season this year.

        Finally, choosing a gadget is never really about the specs. It’s about the platform as a whole and which device/platform you enjoy more, etc. . . . The spec argument gains ground when comparing devices within the same platform. Since Android and iOS are very different platforms with very different philosophies and user interfaces people will most likely choose based on personal preference for the platform unless they are choosing within a platform. Then they will look at other criteria.

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  6. There’s room for an Android Tablet. So who will win that position?….Give me the Xoom @ $449 with Flash, Angry Birds, Skype, a few other things, and you’ll get my business. And we already have, and love the IPad…except we hate hitting the Flash deadends

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  7. At this point in time I wouldn’t even consider a tablet with some kind of cellular connection, hence my Verizon Galaxy Tab. I didn’t bother with the new iPad because I barely use my old iPad except to watch TV and MLB at Bat. The Xoom looked nice but I laughed out loud at the price. Who, in their right mind, would pay that kind of money for a tablet? I don’t get it. I gave up on that “OS wars” garbage years ago. iOS, Android, Windows….whatever. If it does what I need it to do and doesn’t come with a hilarious price tag, wrap it up, I’ll take it. The Xoom, however, doesn’t cut it simply because of the asinine price. Sorry…next.

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    1. “I gave up on that “OS wars” garbage years ago. iOS, Android, Windows….whatever. If it does what I need it to do and doesn’t come with a hilarious price tag, wrap it up, I’ll take it”

      Good advice, Mark!

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