Though there have been tablets running Android on the market since last year, the Motorola Xoom, debuted today at CES in Las Vegas for the very first time, represents the first real Android tablet sanctioned by Google, running an operating system designed explicitly for tablets. Forget the Samsung Galaxy Tab, forget it completely. This is Google’s first attempt to take on the iPad, and it’s a worthy one.
The device has a 10-inch widescreen display and is actually a hair thinner than an iPad: Xoom measures 12.9mm at the middle while the iPad measures 13.4 mm. It’s a smooth black on black with a rubberized rear. It has two cameras, one in front for videoconferencing, one in back for shooting. Battery life is about 10 hours for video, which should put it in the same company as the iPad. Meanwhile, its 1280×800 display is 16:10, which means it uses almost the entire screen when playing a movie.
One interesting difference between the Xoom and the iPad: The docking port is on the bottom, so it will sit in landscape view, not in portrait view, the way the iPad does. I actually think that’s the smarter orientation, at least for movie watching. Here are the full specs:
It will debut on Verizon’s 3G network, but will be “capable of being upgraded to 4G,” though there’s no exact date or pricing just yet.
In a preview video, they zipped through many screens of Android 3.0 aka Honeycomb, the Google tablet OS. Highlights include a powerful multi-tab full-screen Chrome browser with Adobe Flash support (unlike the iPad), a full-screen Gmail with a sleek modern look and lots of space for previewing emails, and a Google Books app that lets you swipe through your books. (That last gesture was a little too much like the “Cover Flow” of album covers, found on many an Apple product, but we’ll let it go for now.)
We’ve gotten to look it over pretty closely, but the demo models weren’t exactly operational, so there’s nothing to say about the feel of the interface. The look from the demo videos told me two things, however: First, this is not a blown-up Android phone experience, like the Galaxy Tab. This is a whole new environment. Second, there’s a lot of Chrome DNA in here, too. I believe the Chrome tabbed browsing experience will be a key part of the Honeycomb life.
As promising as it is, I will withhold judgment for now. No matter how awesome it is, it’s only going to be as good as the developers who get on board and create awesome apps for it. The iPad is a vessel for great development. I think this can be, too, but only if Google encourages it. Building their own awesome apps for the Xoom is fine, but Google needs to somehow get others to follow suit. That is the trick.
posted on MSNBC