updated 09:25 am EDT, Thu November 3, 2011
Motorola Xoom 2 and Xoom 2 ME hit Europe first
Motorola provided a surprise quick reboot of its tablet strategy with fast launches of the 10-inch Xoom 2 and 8.2-inch Xoom 2 Media Edition. Both make amends for the bulky design of the original and are much thinner, in the full Xoom 2's case having exactly the same 8.8mm thickness as the iPad 2. They also tackle the low-quality original Xoom display with brighter, more color-rich LCDs, including a much wider 178-degree viewing angle on the Media Edition.
The full-size Xoom 2 is also now a similar weight to the current iPad at 1.32 pounds. Intended both for sustained video watching and for e-books, the Media Edition's smaller screen helps it get down to 0.85 pounds. Either has 'clipped' corners that Motorola claims are more comfortable in the hand than the straight edges of most other tablets.
Inside, the two tablets are very similar. Either switches to a 1.2GHz TI OMAP processor like that in the Droid RAZR and, along with a slight overall speed boost, should be about 20 percent faster in 3D graphics for games. They're similarly mated to 1GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage, and five-megapixel back and 1.3-megapixel front cameras.
Most of the differences come in sound and battery life, Motorola explained: the 10-inch Xoom 2 has a straightforward virtual surround sound option, but the Media Edition has an 'adaptive' system with multiple speakers that emphasize low-end frequencies. Battery life is the same 10 estimated hours on the larger version, but going to the 8.2-inch slate drops down to just six hours.
Software is similar with a largely stock Android 3.2 being joined by the known MotoCast, a PC-to-tablet remote streaming feature stemming from the takeover of ZumoCast, as well as MotoPrint, a rough parallel to Apple's AirPrint that allows paper printing from "key apps."
Both tablets should be available by mid-November in the UK and Ireland through Best Buy, Carphone Warehouse, Currys, Dixons, and PC World. Unusually, no mention has been made of a North American release so far. The two will have options of a Work and Play kit that includes an HDMI-capable dock, audio output, and both a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard. They even have the option of a stylus that's claimed to be precise.
The two tablets come just several months after the original Xoom and are effectively an admission of the poor reception. Motorola when it launched the first version made conspicuous presumptions that it would repeat in tablets the success it had with the original Droid in smartphones, going for an initial Verizon exclusive and a high-profile campaign that included a Super Bowl ad and the full marketing help of Verizon and Google. A steep minimum $800 initial price and a rushed launch that saw 4G, SD card support, Flash, and other features delayed for months led to most opting for the cheaper, faster, more portable, and higher quality iPad 2.
The Xoom has followed a sales trend nearly opposite from the iPad and dropped down to 100,000 units shipped in the summer, less than half what it managed in the five weeks it was on sale in the launch quarter. In total, Motorola has moved about 790,000 Xooms so far, or less than a tenth of what Apple managed in just its most recent quarter.
Update: After some delay, Motorola confirmed that the 16GB Wi-Fi versions will cost £330 ($529) with tax included for the Xoom 2 Media Edition and £380 ($610) for the full-size Xoom 2. Any American launch would likely see lower prices.
Xoom 2 Media Edition