Was Motorola Mobility too hasty to the market with its Xoom Android 3.0 "Honeycomb" tablet?
It's a fair question, particularly in light of moves made by Research in Motion this week and Samsung during a CTIA Wireless show week dominated by tablets.
RIM answered one of the most pressing questions about its PlayBook when it said the 7-inch, dual-core processor tablet would launch April 19, at $499 (16GB), $599 (32GB) and $699 (64GB).
That comes one year and two weeks after Apple launched its original iPad at the same prices and storage capacities. The new iPad 2 models went to market March 11 for the same price and storage schemes.
RIM's strategy is clear. The company wanted to make sure its PlayBook was competitive with iPad on price. This is crucial for a device facing concerns that it straddles the fence between work tablet (Blackberry tethering, security) and consumer electronics gadget (RIM's focus on PlayBook gaming and graphics).
Jefferies and Co. analyst Peter Misek agreed that, along with RIM's PlayBook distribution across 20,000 Best Buy, AT&T, Office Depot, Staples Sprint, Verizon and other stores, matching the price point of the cheapest iPad is important.
Pivot to Motorola and the Xoom. RIM's PlayBook pricing and availability plays come a month after Motorola launched its Xoom WiFi+3G version for $799 without a contract, $599 with a two-year, $20 a month data deal from Verizon Wireless.
While Motorola later said its WiFi-only Xoom is coming March 27, the damage to its public perception had been done. In addition to Honeycomb's striking some buyers and analysts as buggy, the Xoom appeared too expensive, particularly compared with the iPad 2, which was thinner and lighter.
"Thinner and lighter" presents a good segue to Samsung, which used the CTIA show to showcase its two new Galaxy Tab devices based on Honeycomb.
These slatesincluded the Galaxy Tab 10.1 and Galaxy Tab 8.9, which at 8.6mm proved slimmer than the iPad 2's own slender 8.8mm frame. Launching in June, the 8.9-inch tablet will start below the iPad 2 at $469, while the 10-inch slate will equal the entry-level iPad 2 at $499.
This is a drastic change from the original Honeycomb Tabs Samsung was building, which as seen at Mobile World Congress last month as bulkier.
"We went back to the drawing board," Samsung Mobile executive Omar Khan told AllThingsDigital and noted that the company already had some things cooking in its research labs.
Jefferies' Misek said the thinner size, Honeycomb OS and pricing, a departure from the original, over-priced 7-inch Galaxy Tab, mean these devices should see strong demand.
"We thought the 10-inch Galaxy Tab showcased at CES compared favorably to the original iPad and believe that Samsung will maintain its No. 2 market-share position to Apple with the launch of these new tablets," Misek wrote in a research note March 24.
So where the Xoom boldly launched early with aggressive pricing and questions about Honeycomb's completeness, RIM and Samsung each sized up the iPad 2 and accordingly tailored their strategy to compete with the market's leading tablet maker.
Motorola moved fast and furious. RIM and Samsung proceeded with caution, making changes along the way. It will be interesting to see how each approach-and device-plays out for Motorola, RIM and Samsung.