An advertisement from Best Buy appears to show the highly anticipated Google Android 3.0-based tablet, the Motorola Xoom, with a starting price of $799.99 - or $300 more than the least expensive iPad on the market today. What's worse, the ad also says that it requires the purchase of a data plan through Verizon Wireless, even for those who want to just use the Wi-Fi connection on the Xoom.
Does this decidedly uncompetitive price point spell doom for one of the most popular gadgets from this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2011)? Did the Xoom just go from great Android tablet hope to also-ran?
Xoom Was to Be Android 3.0's Flagship Device
The news comes by way of the blog Engadget, which uncovered evidence of a Feb. 24 launch for the Motorola Xoom at Best Buy by way of a leaked advertisement. To be fair, there's no way to verify the ad is legit at this point, but Engadget says that the price agrees with some of the earlier leaks about the tablet, supposedly from Verizon's own internal systems.
The reason this pricing leak is such a big deal is not only because of Xoom's pre-launch popularity, but also the fact that it is the first tablet to run Google Android 3.0, the tablet-optimized version of the Android mobile operating system, which already powers a number of popular smartphones like the Motorola Droid, the Samsung Galaxy S, HTC Evo and dozens of others.
With Android 3.0, code-named "Honeycomb," Google introduced several user interface changes to the OS, transforming it into an exciting and interesting alternative to Apple's iPad and iPhone operating system called iOS. In Honeycomb, there are 3D homescreen widgets, a revamped multitasking interface involving a launchable panel of recent apps, built-in video chat from Google's GTalk, improvements to notifications and much more.
After January's CES 2011 event, the Xoom had even won accolades from several high-profile tech outlets including CNET, PCMag, Engadget, Gizmodo, BGR, LaptopMag, PopSci, Popular Mechanics and others - it was the tablet that "won" CES.
iPad Competition? Not at This Price Point
But at $800, Xoom's launch may not go as well as some had hoped. In addition to the hefty price tag, those who just want to use the tablet as a Wi-Fi device still have to pay for a one-month data subscription with Verizon before they can even activate the Wi-Fi feature. In comparison, Apple sells the Wi-Fi only iPad for $499, no subscription required. And Apple may be about to launch the iPad 2, according to the Internet rumor mill. Who knows what new price points Apple will reveal at that time?
On the flip side, there's a bit of hope left for Xoom zealots: the ad, as of yet, has not been verified, and there's still the possibility that this is just some sort of Best Buy/Verizon promotion. A less expensive Wi-Fi only Xoom could be sold elsewhere...maybe.
Motorola's Xoom website went live last night, coinciding with the airing of its Super Bowl commercial. The commercial touts the tablet as a breath of fresh air in world where pod-people wearing white earbuds are the norm. Unfortunately, at $800 the tablet could end up as representative of the exclusive, expensive and elitist toys collected by tech's early adopters - ironically, the same image Apple has fought off for years. Meanwhile, the iPad becomes the tablet computer of the everyday man, woman or child.