Motorola Xoom tablet pricing not as crazy as first feared

The Google Android-based Motorola Mobility Xoom tablet will start at about $600 for a Wi-Fi only version

The Google Android-based Motorola Mobility Xoom tablet will start at about $600 for a Wi-Fi only version – a price that should be much more competitive with Apple iPad pricing than was initially thought.

The much anticipated Google Android 3.0 Xoom tablet took something of a beating in the blogosphere last week when a leaked Best Buy ad indicated that the Motorola product would cost around $800 and that a Wi-Fi only version would still require customers to sign up for at least a one-month data contract (See "Will anyone really pay $800 for Android-powered Motorola Xoom tablet?")

The latest pricing information on the expandable 32GB Xoom comes directly from Motorola Mobility CEO Sanjay Jha, who spoke with Reuters at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. He said an unsubsidized version of the Xoom on Verizon Wireless will cost about $800.

"Competing with Apple you have to deliver premium products," Jha said, well aware of Apple's impressive iPad sales, including 7.33 million sold during its first fiscal quarter ended in December.

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Apple iPad pricing ranges from around $500 for a 16GB model with Wi-Fi only to about $600 for a 32GB version and $700 for a 64GB version. WiFi + 3G versions range from $630 to $830. Meanwhile, speculation is rampant that iPad 2 and iPad 3 models are very close to being announced and possibly made available. 

Google Android blogger Michael Heller of Androinica wrote that the WiFi-only model makes it much more likely he'd buy one, though he still questions the premium on the 3G model: "The iPad charges a $130 premium for their 3G models; so, the question still remains though: is a $200 premium plus a data contract worth it for the 3G/4G model Xoom?"

It's still unclear when exactly either version of the Xoom will become available, but possibly later this month. When the 32GB Xoom was formally introduced at CES, Motorola said the Xoom will be available by the end of March as a 3G/WiFi device with an upgrade to 4G LTE during the second quarter. The Xoom's availability would still put it ahead of other announced Android 3.0 tablets, such as Asustek's Eee Pad Slider.

The Xoom  will be among the first to run Google's Android 3.0 "Honeycomb" software, which is optimized to run on tablets with large touch screens such as the Xoom's 10.1-inch high-definition one.  It also features cameras for conducting videoconferences, and supports Adobe Flash

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