Can the Motorola XOOM compete with Apple's iPad?

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from  Arizona
| February 3, 2011


Motorola's Android 3.0-powered XOOM tablet, set to launch on Verizon's network, will be the tablet of all tablets when it finally does land on store shelves. Or at least, that's what Google is hoping. While we've already seen the XOOM at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas a few weeks ago, it wasn't until Google's Honeycomb event yesterday that more people, and the general public, got to see what exactly Honeycomb, or Android 3.0, is all about. What does the tablet-specific mobile Operating System bring to the table, how it's different compared to the Android experience on smartphones already available, and most importantly, how it compares to the other tablets already available. While the difference between earlier versions of Android and Honeycomb are obvious, and the tablet experience surely does add something new to the whole mix, the big question still remains to be answered: how does it compare to Apple's tablet, the iPad?

Obviously, answering that question is a pretty difficult one at this stage in the game. That's mostly due to the fact that the XOOM isn't readily available for the mass consumer. And, up until yesterday, seeing the tablet in action with Honeycomb running the show was a hard thing to come by. But Android 3.0 is out of the bag, ready to be shown off, and just as much ready to find its way into the hands of the consumer. However, with Apple's iPad already available, and with plenty of talk about the second generation of the device still heating up the Internet, does the XOOM really compare?

To me, it just doesn't. Not because the XOOM looks worse than the iPad, aesthetically -- because it doesn't. In fact, I'd say that the XOOM is a remarkably attractive piece of technology, and I can't wait to get my hands on one. And it's certainly not the specifications of the device, when compared to the iPad. The XOOM is obviously a beast of a machine, and using it will more than likely be a buttery-smooth experience that I'm eager to explore more often than not. And, let's face it -- the iPad's User Interface is so simple that it gets boring pretty quickly. But the XOOM doesn't suffer from that at all, with its widgets adding flavor to each and every screen.

So, even with all of that stacked up for the XOOM in comparison to the iPad, why don't I think the XOOM can compete? Simply put, it's the same reason I don't think any Android-based tablet can compete. Media. The XOOM is a tablet that Motorola is marketing as a content and media consuming device, just like the iPad is. While it will be possible to create content on the XOOM thanks to applications, just like it is possible to do so now on the iPad, the devices are meant primarily to be used as ways to download and enjoy content. Yes, the XOOM has an App Store, and there will be ways to get other things like movies and music, but none of them compare to Apple's iTunes juggernaut of a digital retail store. Let alone Apple's App Store.

I'm not saying that there aren't ways to get music or other media types onto the XOOM, because there clearly are. There's nothing wrong with Amazon's MP3 store -- it works as well as it should, and finding music to download is simple enough. And, perhaps that's something that anyone can really ask for. That it works. But to me, there's just not enough media available for the Android-powered tablets that makes me think that the XOOM can really compare to the iPad.

One other note: I'm sure the XOOM is going to sell like hot cakes when it goes on sale. And, I'm sure there's plenty of people out there who will be just fine playing Angry Birds over and over again on their tablet, along with a few other fun games they've found in the Android Market. And, there's a chance that I'll buy the XOOM, too. However, the iPad will always be the main tablet I use when I want to watch a movie, listen to music while I'm browsing the Internet (even if I can't see those Flash-enabled ads), and especially when I want to play some games.

What do you think? Is the XOOM the tablet you've been waiting for, and expect that it can deliver everything you want and more? Or is the iPad the device of your dreams? Let me know in the comments below.

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