Cheaper Motorola XOOM -- that's 600 bucks to you, bud -- coming March 27

Is it enough to take on iPad 2? For the tablet hungry, maybe given Apple's device is sold out everywhere.

The WiFi-only XOOM comes contract-free and will cost $200 less than the Verizon unsubsidized model or same as the subsidized tablet but without two-year data commitment. So buyers will pay $599 for the only Android 3.0 "Honeycomb" tablet currently available. Motorola also will get some marketing tail wind from Verizon, which is heavily promoting the XOOM on television.

When unsubsidized pricing first leaked, I asked Betanews readers: "Would you pay $800 bucks for the Motorla XOOM?" You largely responded: "No Way!" I asked again about $600, when the lower pricing was revealed. Even $600 was too much for most of you. But I asked those pricing questions before Apple announced iPad 2, which isn't much different from last year's model. So given the changed context -- iPad 2's release, the tablet being sold out and WiFi-only XOOM's imminent availability -- I again ask: Would you pay $600 for the Moto XOOM? Please answer the question in comments, or email joewilcox at gmail dot com.

For comparison's sake, let's start with comparable configs:

iPad 2: 1GHz A5 dual-core processor; 9.7-inch LED display with 1024 by 768 resolution; front-and-rear facing cameras; 32GB internal memory; 720p video recording; accelerometer; ambient light sensor; compass; gyroscope; WiFi; iOS 4.3. Price is $599.

Motorola XOOM: 1GHz dual-core nVidia Tegra 2 processor; 10.1-inch display with 1280 x 800 resolution; 1GB of RAM; 32GB internal storage, expandable with MicroSD card; 5-megapixel back-facing and 2-megapixel front-facing cameras; 720p video recording; 1080p video playback; HDMI and USB 2.0 ports; accelerometer; barometer; gyroscope; Android 3.0. Price is $599.

Apple refuses to disclose the megapixels on the front-and-rear facing cameras. Let's just say the cameras are subpar for a device in this class and price range. My measure of subpar is against the iPhone 4 camera, which is remarkably better. The XOOM has higher screen resolution and expandable memory. By comparison, iPad 2's advantages include the thousands of applications and larger choice of cases, peripherals and other add-ons. Since I've only used iPad 2, my comparisons stop there.

Commenter rattyuk is among several Betanews readers convinced Honeycomb tablets are not ready for primetime. "The XOOM is suffering from Google attempting to rush a product out," he writes. "I think it shipped 2 days after Google released the final SDK. When the iPad was announced in January [2010] they got the dev kit to the developers the same day and by the time the original iPad was launched there was something like 2,000 apps available to download. Honeycomb had 16." Do you agree?

Looking ahead, analysts are rather bullish about the reinvigorated tablet category and Apple's command of it, which is something some buyers should take into consideration choosing iPad, XOOM or nothing at all. IDC predicts manufacturers will ship 50 million tablets this year, with iPad presumably taking 70 percent to 80 percent market share. Apple's tablet ended 2010 with 83 percent global share. By comparison, NPD DisplaySearch predicts that 60 million tablet touch screens will ship this year, so presumably that many tablets.

"Tablet PCs are the fastest growing application for touch screens," Jennifer Colegrove, vice president of DisplaySearch Emerging Display Technologies, said in a statement. "Most tablet PC products will leverage multi-touch projected capacitive technology, following Apple's lead." The analyst firm forecasts that Apple will consume the majority of tablet touch screens during 2011 and 2012.

Circling back, please answer question: Would you pay $600 for the WiFi-only XOOM tablet? Respond in comments or email joewilcox at gmail dot com.

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