The Motorola Xoom launch Feb. 24 was exciting enough, but Apple helped work us media types up into a lather by announcing it was holding an iPad 2 event one day before the Xoom hit Verizon Wireless and Best Buy stores.
It was a strategic stroke of genius. The public was already somewhat put off by the $599 price tag, plus two-year deal of the Xoom, which will push cost-of-ownership over $1,000 over the life of the contract.
And the public probably quailed at the fact that the 4G LTE upgrade is an eight-day mail-in process to Xoom maker Motorola.
So what did Apple do? It released an invite to a March 2 iPad 2 event, but here's the kicker. Apple, normally so secretive about its launches, dropped a key clue for this one in the invite:
That says it all, right? Anyone doubt that some sort of new iPad is coming? I didn't think so. And it will probably launch in April, one year after the arrival of its inaugural iPad, which sold about 15 million units.
So what did Apple do in pre-empting the Xoom launch with its iPad 2 presser? It created fear, uncertainty and doubt. Good old FUD.
Users who were interested in the Xoom because it purported to be a premium tablet over the original iPad may find their purchasing plan paralyzed by the prospect of what the iPad 2 might comprise and cost.
If it costs the same or less, the Xoom and all of the other Honeycomb tablets--not to mention the Windows 7 tablets, HP's TouchPad and RIM's PlayBook--launching the rest of the year will all have a tough time competing.
Analysts expect anywhere from 50 million to 75 million tablets to sell this year, with the bulk being iPads. And you can safely bet that the arrival of the iPad 2 will trigger an iPad 1 price reduction down to, say, $300 for the WiFi-only version.
That's certainly more appealing and will further put the screws to the Xoom and the rest of the Android army.
Of course, you always have the crusaders who are going to buy either Apple or Google Android no matter what, so FUD is lost on them.
Those Android-loving folks won't be swayed from buying the Xoom unless it's the price and enslavement to Verizon's 3G plan they wish to avoid. In which case, they can buy it unlocked for $799.
As for what's coming from Apple March 2, I expect, among other things, a thinner, lighter iPad with dual cameras for Facetime chats, as well as a more powerful ARM processor.
I'm also expecting a Xoom to arrive tomorrow, so I'll be testing it to tell you how it is next week.