Xoom tablet pricing for Wi-Fi model sparks online debate

The $599 price for the Wi-Fi only Xoom tablet from Motorola Mobility has triggered an online debate about whether it's competitive with Apple's iPad 2 or way overpriced.

Motorola announced that its Android-based tablet, with a Wi-Fi radio embedded, will go on sale March 27 for $599. Here's what you get for the money: a 1GHz NVIDIA Tegra 2 dual-core processor, 1GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, a 10.1-inch display with 1280 x 800 resolution, and a 5-megapixel autofocus camera.

Apple offers a 32GB iPad 2, also Wi-Fi only, for the same $599 price. But the entry model with 16GB is $499.

TABLET TUMBLE: iPad 2 vs. Motorola Xoom

HANDS-ON REVIEW: Xoom battles iPad 2 to a draw

The Xoom's price is a "perfect matching" against of the 32GB iPad 2, says Sean Mccleod at the Wireless Ground blog. "Motorola has announced the details of the Wi-Fi edition Xoom and its price seems just about right," he says.

But a match isn't good enough in this market, says ZDNet blogger James Kendrick.

"This is good news and bad news for those wanting a XOOM without 3G/4G connectivity; while it is good this model is going on sale, it is $200 too much to compete with the entry-level iPad 2 that is selling like hotcakes," he says.

Today's tablet prices are an obstacle to mass adoption, argues Tom Simonite, writing at MIT Technology Review. He says that the Xoom's price is "simply too high to push tablets into new, less rich corners of society. But once it is one upped by better equipped Android tablets late this year, that $800 price tag [he's referring to the full-price 3G Xoom] will be ripped away and tablet prices will start dropping."

At BetaNews, writer Joe Wilcox polls readers, asking if they'd be willing to pay $600 for the cheaper Wi-Fi Xoom. "Not me. Too much $$$ for a BETA product. The hardware is nice, but Honeycomb needs to bake longer," responds Robastewart.

Another, DaveN, writes, "For $600 the functionality is too limited -- to interest me in that price range, a tablet would have to replace all the functions of my laptop, and that means Windows."

One Twitter user thinks Xoom sales will be "tepid" at the announced price. "@Motorola rly needs to get their stuff together. The WiFi #Xoom sales at $599 are going to be tepid at best. Hit that $499 price point!," tweets @andrewmartonik, a computer science student from Bellingham, Wash.

Another Twitter user, Derek B (@afbfain), was harsher: "WiFi only #xoom $599, someone at Motorola needs to lay the crack pipe down."

But Brian Rule (@brule71), a self-confessed tech junkie, says it's a "good deal." "The #xoom wifi only version on sale 3/27... for $600 I think its a good deal but think it will get discounted quickly w new tablets coming," he tweets.

He may not have to wait for new tablets for the discount. The announced Motorola pricing could be lowered somewhat by the many retailers who will offer it, notes GigaOm's Kevin Tofel. You'll be able to buy the tablet at Amazon.com, Best Buy, Costco, RadioShack, select Sam's Club locations, Staples and Walmart. "But unlike Apple, which typically doesn't allow discounted prices on its products, I wouldn't be surprised to see retailers offer the Xoom for less than Motorola's suggested retail price," Tofel writes.

CNET's Lance Whitney reports that one of those outlets, Sam's Club, may offer members a discount, pricing the Xoom at $539.

One of Tofel's commenters, Alok, apparently hopes to be surprised because the $600 price tag is "suicidal." He writes: "People who have $$ to spare have already jumped in. Why would someone pay more than iPad, which has established itself, for a[n] Android tablet. If Android needs to establish itself, it needs to undercut Apple products by at least $100."

At AllThingsDigital, responding to Ina Fried's straight blog report on the Xoom price news, commenter JohnDoey says bluntly, "There is no way Motorola commands the same price as the Apple product and succeeds."

Despite the fascination with tablets, Xoom sales are weaker than expected, according to a story by eWeek's Clint Boulton.

There's been no official comment on sales from Motorola or Verizon so the evidence cited is purely anecdotal. The reason, according to one Wall Street analyst cited by Boulton, is the tablet version of Android, the 3.0 release called Honeycomb.

Trip Chowdry, with Global Equities Research, says the Android 3.0 UI is "extremely complicated and confusing," applications frequently freeze and crash, and battery life is inconsistent, ranging from two to six hours, which even at its best is far less than the 10 hours usually seen for iPad, including the new iPad 2. Users told Chowdry that tablet UI "just does not come easily," according to the eWeek story.

Some number of users remain unconvinced that buying any tablet is worth the money compared to a similarly priced, or even cheaper, Windows laptop. "[I]f I am going to shell out $500+ for a device I want it to do what a $500 laptop will do," posted bobiroc, in response to Kendrick's post. "Seeing as most people (that I see) lug their laptop around along side their tablet anyway I don't see much of a difference."

The best news for Xoom? iPad 2 mania. "It is, however, possible that iPad 2 mania could work in Xoom Wi-Fi's favor," writes Christina Warren, blogging at Mashable. "Because demand for the iPad 2 continues to be so strong, Apple is having a hard time keeping units in stock. ...Customers looking for an iPad 2 at Walmart or Best Buy might be persuaded to get the Xoom (provided it is in stock) for the same price."

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.

Twitter: http://twitter.com/johnwcoxnww

E-mail: john_cox@nww.com

Blog RSS feed: http://www.networkworld.com/community/blog/2989/feed

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