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Motorola XOOM: The prices nobody wanted to pay and the features that came too late

Motorola XOOM tablet and dock 10-29-2011

The Motorola XOOM came with a dual-core CPU, dual HD cameras, the promise of 4G LTE and it was the first Android 3.0 Honeycomb tablet, but it failed. Image: Motorola

In the weeks preceding the big CES 2011 trade show in Las Vegas, Nevada there was a lot of buzz surrounding a new tablet operating system from Google for their mobile Android platform, and there was a lot of buzz surround a new Motorola tablet. At CES Motorola introduced the world to the Motorola XOOM and the new Android 3.0 Honeycomb operating system for tablets that Google had designed to fight Apple’s iOS powered iPad tablet.

The Motorola XOOM was announced with a 10.1-inch HD 1280×800 touchscreen, a dual-core 1GHz NVIDIA Tegra 2 processing chip, 1GB of RAM, 32GB of internal storage, microSD (up to 32GB expansion), HDMI out, 720p HD video recording with a 5MP camera with LED flash on the back of the tablet, a front-facing 2MP webcam for video calling, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1+EDR, and 4G LTE with 3G for fall-back.

The Motorola XOOM was introduced as the first tablet (ARM powered) with a dual-core processor and 4G LTE. Compared to Apple’s first generation iPad tablet the hardware specifications on the Motorola XOOM were vastly superior in many areas. However even with a dual-core processor the Motorola XOOM launched with little fanfare and less-than iPad sales numbers.

What caused the Motorola XOOM to fail? From day one of the tablet being available for purchase there were loud complaints about price, a buggy Android 3.0 Honeycomb, almost no tablet applications (at launch and for months after launch), no 4G LTE (added many months after launch), a non-function microSD card slot (added many months after launch), and the price (yes it needed to be mentioned twice).

The price tags that nobody liked

In late February the Motorola XOOM was released on the Verizon Wireless network in a 32GB Wi-Fi + 3G configuration. Verizon Wireless started pricing at $599.99 for the XOOM tablet with a 2-year data contract and $799.99 for the tablet without any contract agreements. For a little more than one month the $599.99 and $799.99 prices were all the options potential Motorola XOOM buyers had available to them.

As you can imagine Motorola was scolded heavily for their inital pricing strategy for the Motorola XOOM tablet.

Motorola Mobility Inc. CEO, Sanjay Jha small

Motorola Mobility Inc. CEO, Sanjay Jha. Image: Motorola

Motorola Mobility Inc. CEO, Sanjay Jha, defended his companies pricing decision in February at Mobile World Congress by saying, “We felt that our ability to deliver 50Mbps would justify the $799 price point, It is 32GB with 3G and a free upgrade to 4G. Being competitive with iPad is important. We feel that from the hardware and capabilities we deliver, we are at least competitive and in a number of ways better”.

After the Motorola XOOM was available in the market place for one month at those initially exorbitant price points Motorola introduced a more affordable Wi-Fi only version for no-contract consumers. The 32GB Wi-Fi only Motorola XOOM was released in late March with a $599.99 MSRP.

However even with the $599.99 price for a 32GB Wi-Fi Motorola XOOM tablet the Sanjay Jha and his company were bombarded with criticism on the tablets price, also the sales didn’t make any sort of dramatic jump after the $599.99 Wi-Fi only model was released. So, finally in July Motorola announced that they would be dropping prices for the Wi-FI only and Wi-Fi + 3G Motorola XOOM tablets by $100 USD each. In July the Wi-Fi only model dropped down to $499.99, the on-contract Wi-Fi + 3G model went to $499.99, and the off-contract Wi-Fi + 3G model was dropped to $599.99.

After those final price drops the 10.1-inch Motorola XOOM tablet still didn’t take off, even as other Android 3.x Honeycomb tablets like the Asus Eee Pad Transformer started to explode in the Android tablet market.

4G LTE came too late

Motorola XOOM tablet 4G LTE upgradable banner

The Motorola XOOM was launched as a 4G LTE upgradable tablet. (Yes, Verizon did misspell upgradable)

In his defense of the Motorola XOOM’s high launch price Motorola Mobility Inc. CEO Sanjay Jha pointed to his companies tablets ability to have 4G LTE as justification. In reality the 4G LTE that Jha pointed to never arrived for the Motorola XOOM until this week, more than seven months since the Motorola XOOM was launched. The Motorola XOOM Wi-Fi + 3G tablets that Motorola sold over those seven or so months all qualified for free upgrades and that process was kicked-off late last month, too.

The non-existence of 4G LTE for the Motorola XOOM over those seven or so months resulted in a lot of lost sales. People don’t want to pay for promises of features, they want the features being marketed to be included with the product at launch. Motorola really failed the XOOM with the super-slow roll-out of 4G LTE radios for the tablet.

The long delay really shows that Motorola was really rushing the XOOM to market to catch-up to Apple’s first generation iPad before the follow-up iPad 2 was released –Apple launched their iPad 2 a month after Motorola launched the XOOM, Apple has been way more successful in selling their iPad 2 than Motorola has been with their XOOM.

All in all the Motorola XOOM should serve as a lesson to Motorola

The failure of the Motorola XOOM should really have taught Motorola how not to launch a tablet, the hard lessons taught to Motorola should ensure they don’t fumble with the release of their next Android tablets.

Motorola XOOM 2 leaked photo

This is what leaked photographs tell us the Motorola XOOM 2 10-inch tablet will look like. Image: Engadget

Going forward into 2012 the Motorola Mobility Inc. company is expected to have a more abundant selection of tablets for consumers to pick from. Early leaks have shown that Motorola Mobility Inc. has an 8.2-inch Motorola XOOM 2 Media Edition tablet with 16GB and 32GB capacities and a 10.1-inch Motorola XOOM 2 with 16GB, 32GB and 64GB capacities.

Recently Motorola launched a 10.1-inch Motorola XOOM Family Edition tablet with a $399 price tag, which gives me some comfort that Motorola won’t make their XOOM 2 tablets too expensive. If there should be any lesson that Motorola learned in 2011 it should be that price above all else is the most important factor for non-iPad tablets.

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