One week after attendees of the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show searched high and low for tablets based on Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich operating system, Motorola Mobility (NYSE:MMI) said its Xoom WiFi model would begin getting the ICS upgrade.
The ICS upgrade will begin rolling out in phases over the air in the next few weeks, Motorola announced Jan. 18. Users not connected via WiFi will see the notification when they next connect to a WiFi network.
With ICS, the Xoom, unveiled at the 2011 CES as the first Android Honeycomb tablet ever built with the approval of Google, will benefit from a faster browser, better typeface and fresh app-launcher, among other perks.
Some of those other perks include the ability for users to type text with their voice and access a data manager to control their data usage.
ICS also has a social-heavy People application to replace the tablet's contacts application and meld with Google+, Facebook, LinkedIn (NYSE:LNKD), Twitter and other social networks. The new camera application has a panorama mode, and the photo gallery application has a photo editor.
These last two features were readily apparent on Samsung's Galaxy Nexus, the first smartphone to launch with ICS. The Galaxy Nexus also includes the Face Unlock facial-recognition security feature and Android Beam, the near-field communication (NFC) application that lets Galaxy Nexus users tap their phones together to share YouTube clips and other content.
There were a couple ICS tablets at CES. The quad-core Asus Transformer Prime led the pack, followed by the MIPS Technologies-powered Ainovo Novo7 tablet. Intel and Lenovo meanwhile showed off the IdeaTab K210, a beta tablet running ICS.
However, the Xoom is the first Honeycomb-based tablet to get the ICS upgrade.
Verizon Wireless and Best Buy began selling the 10.1-inch Xoom in February 2011 for $599 with a two-year contract and $799 off contract. The slate has a dual-core, 1GHz processor and dual cameras. While eWEEK found the tablet to be a solid answer to the first Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPad, many people who tested it found Honeycomb balky and buggy. Also, the tablet was considered expensive.
The rest of the market apparently agreed, as the tablet failed to sell well. Motorola sold only 250,000 Xoom units in its first quarter. That figure dropped to less than 100,000 for the October 2011 quarter.
Motorola's so-called Xoom 2 tablets, the 10.1-inch Droid Xyboard and 8.2-inch Xyboard from Verizon, are superior devices in virtually every way. They are lighter and thinner, offering dual-core processors, better cameras and Android 3.2 Honeycomb, which has worked out the early kinks. Those tablets will also be upgraded to ICS this year.
Still, it's interesting to see the low-selling Xoom get the bump. It could be a move to breathe life into the tablet's sales, which Motorola could certainly use. The company, in the process of being acquired by Google for $12.5 billion, announced an earnings and smartphone unit sales shortfall Jan. 6.
Motorola also struck a key deal to build smartphones and tablets based on Intel's Atom "Medfield" processors.