Can Xoom's lure of 4G get past price tag, iPad2?

Summary:The tablet wars are in full swing - with Xoom's release today, the iPad 2 details coming next week and even the arrival of Playbook and TouchPad now in the mix. How big of a role will 4G make in the decision making process.

The geek grenades are flying as the Big Battle of the Tablet PC wars kicks into high gear. And smart shoppers will lay low until the dust has settled - definitely after March 2 and probably even longer.

The Motorola Xoom, the highly anticipated Google Android 3 tablet that's considered to be the first real contender to the iPad, is being released today. But don't expect any long lines outside Verizon stores for it. Now that Apple has issued invitations for a news event next week, the buzz is that details of the iPad 2 will be out sooner, rather than later.

The early reviews of the Xoom have been pretty upbeat, meaning that Google and Motorola may have come up with a true technological winner, even if the iPad 2 steals the spotlight and critics focus on the price tag - $600 with a two-year Verizon contract and $800 without contract. Reviewers, as expected, have been comparing every nook and cranny of the Xoom to the current version of the iPad. And it seems to be holding up well, even beating the current version of the iPad in some areas. It's biggest downfall: price.

In a post earlier this month, I wondered if Google's Android 3 - aka Honeycomb - had what it takes to beat Apple by being "just as good" as the iPad and decided that, if it could beat on price, then good enough was all it would take. Unfortunately, Motorola, Google and Verizon choked on pricing. And now iPad2 rumors are stealing the buzz around the actual release.

There's one last trump card for the Xoom - and that's the upgrade to 4G LTE later this year. If the device itself is "just as good" as the iPad - and even the iPad2 - but it will handle 4G speeds, then that just could be enough for some buyers to tilt toward the Xoom instead of the iPad2.

You can't underestimate the significance of 4G for some buyers - and truth be told, Apple is falling short in that race. There were major moans and groans when Apple finally announced an iPhone for Verizon and then said it would only be available on a 3G network. Apple's reasoning: users said they wanted a Verizon phone now, not tomorrow.

Bottom line: Apple's iPhone isn't ready for 4G yet - and there's been no hint that the iPad 2 will be equipped to handle 4G mobile broadband either."  The pricing issue for the Xoom is a big deal - don't get me wrong - but the 4G issue is also a big deal for Apple.

Apple still has the upper-hand here: First, because it's the incumbent with an already established track record, and second, because Apple's price tags are better looking than Xoom's.

Those in the market for a tablet PC right away are about to come across some good, old-fashioned competitive pricing options, a market where even the leader is working to hold on to its momentum while competitors try to steal it. Those who are in the market for a tablet PC later this year may find even better pricing, as well as a greater number of options, by waiting a few more months.

The grenades are still flying in this tablet war - and will be for some time.

Topics: Laptops, Hardware, Mobility, Tablets

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