Motorola Xoom Sales Weak Amid Rough Cut Honeycomb

Motorola Mobility's Xoom tablet computer is struggling from weak demand due to the bugginess and complexity of the Android 3.0 "Honeycomb" OS, says analyst Trip Chowdry.

As Apple's iPad 2 flew off shelves at Apple Stores, Best Buy and other retailers around the country, sales of its rival Motorola Mobility Xoom tablet have been weak, according to analysts' channel checks.

Verizon Wireless and Best Buy began selling the 10.1-inch Xoom Feb. 24 for $599 with a two-year contract and $799 off contract. The slate computer has a dual-core, 1GHz processor; dual cameras; and 4G upgrade capabilities. Verizon declined to comment on Xoom sales numbers.

However, Global Equities Research said one of its purported strengths, the newfangled Android 3.0 "Honeycomb" operating system, is actually the Xoom's Achilles' heel.

Global Equities analyst Trip Chowdry said Honeycomb is the weakest link, as it is buggy, "extremely complicated and confusing," which means the tablet will be relegated to the geek tech community and not gain mass adoption. Chowdry noted in a March 9 research note:

  • Google Honeycomb is suffering from frequent application freezes and crashes.

  • The battery life is very inconsistent, sometimes lasting for 2 hours and sometimes for 6 hours.

  • The battery standby life is mere a 10 to 12 hours versus 30 days on Apple iPad.

  • Auto-wrap, if text is magnified, is completely missing, which just shows Google is missing attention to simple details.

Moreover, users are frustrated with the Honeycomb UI, as Chowdry quoted many users saying it "just does not come naturally-you really have to work on it" and that "Honeycomb just does not cut it."

The anecdotal evidence led Chowdry to conclude that Google's perpetual beta strategy, which worked fine for Gmail, Google Voice and Google Maps, has backfired on Honeycomb tablets.

The key difference is those apps are free, while the Xoom is a consumer device priced at a premium while the iPad 2 offers similar functionality and performance at first iPad prices.

"Apple has set the perfection bar too high for Google to achieve and has also raised the expectations from the customers too on what to expect from the software," Chowdry said, adding that Google may not get a second chance to make a good impression in the market.

Google declined to comment on Chowdry's report, which is not the only one to highlight subpar Xoom sales.

Jefferies and Co. analyst Peter Misek March 11 said Xoom sales have been underwhelming, meaning Motorola Mobility will likely have to cut production if it already has not done so.

"We believe the device has been a bit buggy and did not meet the magic price point of $500," Misek said. "We believe management knows this and is hurrying development and production of lower cost tablets. Importantly we believe management will likely have to make the painful decision to accept little to no margin initially in order to match iPad 2's wholesale pricing."

As an aside, eWEEK reviewed the Xoom and found it to be relatively easy to use, reported no crashes, and had a battery life that was comparable to that of the iPad.