Motorola Xoom tablet launching 24 February for US$800

7 Feb 2011

Motorola will be launching its rival to Apple’s iPad 2, the Xoom, on 24 February in the US with a price tag of US$800, it has emerged. The news emerged as part of a Best Buy Super Bowl ad modelled on Apple’s iconic ‘1984’ ad.

The Xoom, which won ‘Best in Show’ at CES last month, is the first tablet computer to run Android 3.0 Honeycomb and is powered by a dual core processor, each one running at 1GHz. It has a 10.1-inch widescreen HD display and is upgradable to 4G LTE. The device supports 1,080p HD video and HDMI output to display content on larger HD screens, and plays video and other rich web content seamlessly with Adobe Flash Player.

I detect a certain emotion behind Motorola’s decision to mimic Apple’s old iconic advertising.

You see, I can’t help but get the feeling that Apple wrong-footed Motorola in recent years.

Motorola has a prestigious history in radio communications that extends back to World War II and less than 10 years ago was notching up considerable success in the mobile phone world with wonderful, sleek devices like the RAZR in 2004.

It was with great passion and verve that Motorola proudly acclaimed the ROCKR E1 that same year – the first phone in the world to access Apple’s iTunes store. It was an effective device only for one drawback, Apple limited the number of songs to be loaded at any one time to 100.

Unbeknownst to Motorola, Apple’s R&D people were already hard at work on the iPhone, which would be unveiled three years later. At the same time that the ROCKR debuted, Apple brought out its iPod Nano.

Despite a high-profile ad campaign, sales of the ROCKR were poor and following the launch of the iPod Nano, Motorola’s CEO at the time, Ed Zander, accused Apple of purposely undercutting the ROCKR.

The episode marked the beginning a steep and sudden descent for Motorola’s mobile device division, compounded by the fact that when Apple’s iPhone debuted in January 2007 Motorola had ceased to be a force in mobile phones.

It would be another two years with the launch of the DROID smartphone that Motorola would attempt to win back significant territory in the mobile stakes.

The launch of the Xoom possibly ahead of the Apple iPad 2 and the use of iconic Apple advertising suggests to me Motorola wants to settle a score.

XOOM specs

Motorola XOOM features a front-facing 2-megapixel camera for video chats over Wi-Fi or 3G/4G LTE, as well as a rear-facing 5-megapixel camera that captures video in 720p HD. It delivers console-like gaming performance on its 1,280 x 800 display, and features a built-in gyroscope, barometer, e-compass, accelerometer and adaptive lighting for new types of applications.

It also features Google Maps 5.0 with 3D interaction and delivers access to more than 3m Google eBooks and thousands of apps from Android Market.

For working on the go, Motorola XOOM provides constant connectivity − including connecting to Gmail or Exchange email; opening and editing documents, spreadsheets and presentations; and viewing calendars and sending out appointments or meeting notices – with mobile broadband speeds. Its mobile hotspot capability provides an online connection for up to five other Wi-Fi-enabled devices.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years