Motorola Sets Launch Day For Its Xoom WiFi-only Tablet

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Motorola’s Xoom WiFi-only could be the first Honeycomb tablet to challenge the iPad 2 in the UK in April

Motorola Mobility will begin selling its WiFi-only Xoom tablet in US shops on March 27. The good news for the UK is that the lower-priced models without 3G should be available from launch in the first week of April.

The 32 GB Xoom WiFi, which is price equivalent to Apple’s new WiFi-only, 32 GB iPad 2, will also be available to commercial IT channels and regional retailers through a distribution agreement with Synnex, and regional carriers through Brightpoint, Motorola said.

Challenger For iPad 2

The 10.1-inch Xoom is the first slate based on Google’s Android 3.0 “Honeycomb” operating system, a tablet-tailored flavour of the platform popularised on smartphones. Powered by a 1 GHz dual-core processor, the slate offers dual cameras and user interface perks on a 1280-by-800 HD display.

More importantly, for $599 (£372), the Xoom WiFi should provide a solid challenger to the iPad 2 WiFi after people were put off by Motorola’s pricing for its WiFi+3G Xoom.

Motorola launched the WiFi+3G version of its Xoom February 24, priced at $599 with a two-year deal from Verizon Wireless and $799 (£495) off contract.

High-tech analysts fretted over the notion of a tablet with a data plan that would cost $20 a month for 1GB of data, putting the cost of ownership for the tablet to more than $1,000 over two years.

Some analysts and consumers saw a better bargain in the iPad, which offers the comparable 32GB WiFi+3G version for $729 and saw the greater brand and bargain.

The rhetoric ratcheted up when Apple launched its iPad 2 with dual cameras and other features that make it competitive with the Xoom, at the same price points as its first iPad line-up. The device has sold between 500,000 and 1 million units since March 11.

The Xoom is also haunted by reports from financial analysts that some buyers found the Xoom to be poor.

Global Equities analyst Trip Chowdry said Honeycomb is buggy, “extremely complicated and confusing”, concluding the tablet will not gain mass adoption.

The finding was interesting, if not curious. eWEEK tested the WiFi+3G Xoom and found it speedy and high-performing, possessing dazzling graphics and user interface perks, such as widgets, multitasking and notifications that surpassed the first Apple iPad.

The Xoom should get better in the multimedia consumption department March 18 when Adobe’s Flash Player 10.2 becomes available for download on the device.

Still, for many consumers, the choice of iPad or Xoom will come down to whether people prefer Apple products to the Android experience. People will argue which device is superior, but in the end a lot of it comes down to “religion”.

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