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.
Verizon Selling Xoom, Galaxy Tab, iPad
This “Pick a tablet, any tablet” approach appears to be an attempt to move Verizon Wireless from being just another wireless phone company into something more. The broad tablet offerings mean that Verizon has a solution to meet pretty much any need. Customers who want access to the wealth of iPad applications will have the ability to come to Verizon and get what they need, along with having a mobile hot spot that can support their other devices.
For those who want something more portable, the 7-inch Galaxy Tab is the Android-based alternative. And now there’s the Xoom, which seems to be designed to be what the iPad is not-a multifeatured tablet that builds on the iPad concept and manages to deliver more for the same price.
Assuming that you’re willing to buy into the idea that tablets are the next big thing-something that netbooks weren’t-then Verizon Wireless is putting itself in exactly the right place. While the other wireless companies are also offering the Galaxy Tab, you’re not seeing the broad selection that you see from Verizon. This kind of one-stop shop for tablet solutions may well be exactly what the nascent tablet industry needs.
Whether this works depends greatly on how Verizon Wireless markets its tablet offerings. Assuming that the company manages to make the role of each device clear, and manages to identify the market segments it intends for each device, it could create even faster growth in the tablet market than we’re already seeing. While Apple iPads don’t really need a lot of marketing right now by the wireless carriers-Apple is taking care of that-they may need more in the future as solid alternatives such as the Xoom make it obvious that the iPad isn’t the only game in town.
But what’s equally important is that by offering a range of tablets with similar prices but differing capabilities, Verizon Wireless can also show that the iPad is one of many games in town, each of which has its own reason for being, and each of which has its own logical customer base. The result is that this sort of approach could create a better market for tablets, and enterprise tablets specifically, because now it’ll be possible to get the product you need with the capabilities that are required for your application, and to do it from one vendor.
About the only thing that will make this work better is if another wireless company adopts the same approach. While AT&T seems to still be overwhelmed with the iPhone, there are rumors that it may get the Xoom. Whether this same broad tablet selection and 3G/4G support will come to other vendors remains to be seen, but it would be good for everyone if it did.