Motorola Mobility will begin selling its WiFi-only Motorola Xoom tablet March 27 for $599 at Best Buy, Costco, RadioShack, Sam's Club, Staples and Walmart, and online at Amazon.com.
The 32GB Xoom WiFi, which is price-equivalent to Apple's new WiFi-only, 32GB iPad 2, will also be available to commercial IT channels and regional retailers through a distribution agreement with Synnex Corporation, and regional carriers through Brightpoint, Motorola said.
The 10.1-inch Xoom is the first slate based on Google's Android 3.0 "Honeycomb" operating system, a tablet-tailored flavor of the platform popularized on smartphones. Powered by a 1-GHz dual-core processor, the Xoom offers dual cameras and user-interface perks on a 1280-by-800 HD display.
More important, carrying a price of $599, the Xoom WiFi should prove a solid challenger to the iPad 2 WiFi after people were put off by Motorola's pricing for its WiFi+3G version of Xoom.
Motorola launched the WiFi+3G Xoom Feb. 24, priced at $599 with a two-year deal from Verizon Wireless, and $799 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, pushing 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.
The rhetoric ratcheted up when Apple launched its iPad 2 with dual cameras and other features that make it competitive with the Xoom, yet 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 one prefers 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.