Motorola Hopes To Tackle Apple With Xoom Tablet

Motorola came out swinging at CES with its first tablet, the LTE-packing and Android 3.0 Honeycomb-powered Xoom.
The Xoom is Motorola's entry into the tablet space, and it goes on sale by the end of the first quarter of this year from Verizon Wireless. The Xoom stands apart from Samsung's Galaxy Tab and the Apple iPad in interesting ways. Let's take a look.

First, the Xoom has a 10.1-inch display, which is larger than the Tab's 7-incher and iPad's 9.7-incher. It has a widescreen aspect ratio, with 1200 x 800 pixels, and it is powered by dual-core 1GHz processors. It will ship with a 3G radio for wireless broadband to start, but can be upgraded to 4G Long Term Evolution through a hardware modem swap later this year. (Motorola said this requires a technician and can't be done by end users.)

Other hardware specs include support for 1080p HD video playback and Adobe's Flash Player. For gaming, it has a gyroscope, accelerometer, e-compass and a barometer. The main camera shoots at 5 megapixels and can capture 720p HD video. The Xoom has a user-facing 2 megapixel camera for video chats. The iPad has no cameras.

In the few moments I was able to spend with the Xoom, I can say that it looks good -- if a little plain -- and the weight is about 1.5 pounds (700g). The surfaces and controls felt good. No one, however, really got a true understanding of how the user interface works.

The Xoom will ship with Android 3.0 Honeycomb, which has been optimized specifically for tablets. According to Motorola, Google hasn't finalized the user interface, and in fact, none of the Xooms on display were really working. Motorola Mobility CEO Sanjay Jha noted during his presentation that the software just isn't ready yet. Google had, however, prepared a series of videos that were loaded onto the Xooms on-hand, which walked CES gawkers through what Honeycomb will offer.

The user interface has seen some generous updates and the most impressive change is how the Android widgets work. Users can interact with widgets on the desktop without opening the full applications, and that includes the browser and other similar web-connected apps. This means users have access to a plethora of information at any time. The Xoom is a powerhouse multitasker.

The native video chat app is real, and looks slick. The new book store is refined and austere, and Google Maps 5.0 in 3D looks stunning. The new YouTube application also looks great, and the power of the browser is real. It offers true tabbed experience, which makes for faster switching between open web pages.

Can the Xoom beat the iPad? Well, it has a larger screen, faster internet (eventually), and much better multitasking capabilities. It's definitely the first real competitor to Apple's iPad success story. It will be appealing to power users who aren't Apple fans, but Apple is preparing to debut the iPad 2 at about the same time the Xoom goes on sale...

Pricing for the Xoom hasn't been announced yet, nor has an exact sales date been disclosed.

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