iPad 2, Pricing Could Spell Doom for Motorola Xoom

Motorola Xoom's sales will likely be impeded by the Apple iPad 2 introduction slated for March 2, analysts agree. The Xoom performed well against the iPad in early tests.

Executives from Verizon Wireless, Motorola and Google wowed the crowd at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show Jan. 6 when they demonstrated the 3D and other graphical user interface capabilities of the Xoom, which runs Google's Android 3.0 "Honeycomb" operating system.

Dubbed by the press as the Apple iPad "killer," the Xoom saw some bumps along the way as rumors swirled that Motorola and Verizon would price the tablet at $800.

Apple erased nearly two months of excitement surrounding Motorola's Xoom tablet Feb. 23 when it announced an iPad-related media event scheduled for March 2, one day before Verizon launched the Xoom Feb. 24 for $599 with a two-year deal, $799 for an unlocked LTE (Long-Term Evolution) version.

The announcement of the event, expected to be the coming out party for the iPad 2, will likely freeze consumers from buying the Xoom. The iPad 2, some believe, may match the Xoom most in functionality and in price.

Analysts agreed the move was coldly calculated to paralyze tablet shoppers from snapping up the Xoom, which is upgradeable to Verizon's 4G LTE network.

Current Analysis analyst Avi Greengart said Apple's freezing the market goes beyond just clever timing. "Apple is the clear market leader, and everyone is waiting to see what the next generation iPads look like and how much they cost," Greengart said.

Enderle Group founder Rob Enderle said it's all par for Apple's calculated course.

"Apple keeps what they are doing quiet so they can react to what their competitors do and out-game them with launch timing and provide launch marketing that showcases competitive strengths," Enderle told eWEEK. "Apple enters the market knowing more about their competitors than those competitors know about Apple, and as long as this continues, it will be nearly impossible to beat them."

With 15 million first-generation iPads sold and counting, and an iPad on the way that adds features the first iPad lacked, the best strategy for the army of Android tablet suppliers might be to try to distinguish their offerings from the iPad instead of trying to beat it.

Enderle, who is testing the Xoom, found his model unfinished and cautioned against the fact that consumers will have to send their current Xoom models back to Motorola for a 4G LTE upgrade later this year. He also noted the lack of Flash support, which is coming next month, and said Netflix won't work on it at all.

Also, while the Xoom does run many of the existing Android Apps, finding one that really showcases this device has been elusive, he said, echoing a complaint made by Robert Scoble and others.

"Google is increasingly reminding me of some of Microsoft's historic problems in that they don't seem to finish things and the folks using their platform don't seem to be able to apply finishing touches before shipping," Enderle said. "In the end, the iPad will likely come off as far more polished and complete and at a very competitive price."

Greengart tested his Xoom review unit against the first-gen iPad and found:

"Honeycomb's multitasking is more efficient than iOS' task switching, but still significantly lags webOS in utility and polish. Active widgets and Android's generally high level of customization favor people willing to invest time to make the device their own. The iPad is considerably simpler to navigate and offers less customization-it's Steve Jobs' tablet, he just lets you use it."

Greengart cautioned that while the Xoom does appear to be faster launching and switching among applications than the current iPad, it remains to be seen what the iPad 2 will be like, which is the real competition.

That measure of fear, uncertainty and doubt was the whole point of Apple's little pre-announcement earlier this week.