A closer look at Motorola's Xoom tablet
LAS VEGAS --The most promising iPad competitor at CES may be Motorola's Xoom, but it's a little too soon to write that in pen instead of pencil.
I got a quick tour of this Android tablet computer at Motorola's booth this afternoon that both outlined what could make it an effective rival to Apple's bestseller and left reasons to think it might not do the trick.
In its favor, the 1.5-lb. Xoom--pronounced "zoom" and written by Motorola in all-caps--offers a slightly larger screen than the iPad, at 10.1 inches versus the Apple tablet's 9.7, and with a higher 1280-by-720 pixel resolution than the iPad's 1024-by-768 resolution. It includes both a 2-megapixel camera on the front and a 5-MP camera on the back, combined with Google's own Google Talk video-calling software built in. That should be a step up from the third-party applications and services bundled by other vendors.
(Skype announced today that it will buy the best-known developer of Android video-calling software, Qik.)
The Xoom, due sometime in the first quarter of this year, also includes standard micro-USB and micro-HDMI ports for easy connections to computers and TVs. The first version leaves out the usually standard microSD Card slot, although a successor model due in the second quarter of the year will add that. Product manager Arthur Baudo said its battery should play 10 hours of video on a charge.
Verizon Wireless will start with an exclusive on the tablet, selling a version with 3G and WiFi. At some point, you'll be able to upgrade that to its 4G "LTE" network through an in-store procedure.
But then there are the things I didn't know after the demo. The big one is Verizon's price, both for the device and for service afterward. The carrier isn't saying. If it follows the strategy it's employed with Samsung's Galaxy Tab--which barely beats the price of the 3G version of the iPad but comes shackled to an obtuse set of mobile-broadband price plans--that won't be doing this tablet any favors.
Baudo wouldn't say if Motorola plans to ship versions for other carriers or sell a WiFi-only model direct to customers, but the company will obviously do the latter at some point. It would be crazy not to. Uh, right?
One other aspect of the Xoom should clear up soon enough: Its software. It runs the 3.0 version of Android, nicknamed "Honeycomb" by Google, which is the first version written with tablets in mind. The display unit I inspected did not have Honeycomb open for inspection, instead playing a highlight reel of screen shots and videos. From what I could see of them and what others have written, Honeycomb should be a major step forward in usability and elegance.
Expect other Honeycomb tablets, but you may have to wait longer for details on them. The G-Slate LG is making for T-Mobile, for example, is nowhere to be seen on the show floor here after an introduction at the carrier's press conference.
What would you want out of an Android tablet? What if Apple delivers those features first in an increasingly likely revision of its iPad first?
(1/7, 8:20 a.m. PST: Yes, I really did manage to misspell "Motorola" in the headline, and nobody caught it before posting. In future posts on wireless vendors, I will try to avoid comparable misspellings like "Samsnug" or "HCT.")
| January 6, 2011; 9:09 PM ET
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