News Analysis: Verizon will make the much-anticipated Motorola Xoom even more attractive to consumers by offering it with or without a two-year contract.
Verizon Wireless will be making the Motorola Xoom tablet
available for sale in Verizon stores and online on Feb. 24. The new tablets,
which were announced in a Super
Bowl TV commercial that harked back to Apple's famed 1984 Macintosh
advertisement, also demonstrated features that aren't available on the Xoom's
direct competition, the Apple iPad. The Xoom will be available for
$599.99 with a two-year contract and for $799.99 without a contract.
Initially, the Xoom will run on the Verizon Wireless 3G
network, but will be upgraded to 4G LTE during 2011 second quarter at no cost.
Presumably this will be an over-the-air software upgrade, but Verizon Wireless
has been unable to confirm that. The Xoom runs Google's Android 3.0 "Honeycomb"
operating system. Unlike the current version of the Apple iPad, the Xoom
features two cameras, one outward-facing 5-megapixel HD camera and one
inward-facing 2-megapixel camera for video conferencing. Also unlike the iPad,
the Xoom supports tabbed browsing and Adobe Flash.
The Xoom's multitouch display is more flexible than the
version that's currently available for the iPad. For example, you can use your
fingers to rotate the screen image to whatever position you want, without
having to physically rotate the device. The device features a 1GHz dual-core processor
and a 10.1-inch display.
By offering the Xoom, Verizon Wireless becomes a central
source for tablet devices. The company has already been selling a Galaxy Tab
device, and it recently started selling Apple iPads with a bundled MiFi mobile
hot spot for about the same price as the Xoom. As a result, you can get pretty
much anything you want in terms of tablets from Verizon Wireless, unless it's a
WebOS tablet because that one isn't shipping at all, to anybody.
While we don't know yet whether Verizon Wireless will
also land a version of the Hewlett-Packard tablet when it comes out, it seems
that the company is making a strong play to be all things to all tablet buyers.
About the only thing the company lacks in its offerings is a tablet for people
who travel outside the United States.
At this point, when I go to CeBIT next week, I'd only be able to use one of
their tablets where I could find WiFi. Of course, this isn't a huge sacrifice,
since my iPad is also WiFi-only. I wasn't about to sign up for AT&T's 3G
when I can't get its 3G in my home of office.
Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazine's Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.
He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.