By Harry McCracken | Wednesday, February 16, 2011 at 1:57 pm
That leaked Best Buy ad spoke the truth: The Verizon 3G/4G version of Motorola’s upcoming Xoom tablet is an $800 product (or, if you want to be precise, a $799 one). Motorola says a Wi-Fi-only one will go for around $600.
With both versions, an analysis of the specs you get for the money you plunk down makes the prices look…well, not nutso: The Xoom is a fancier piece of hardware than the iPad in multiple respects. But the fact remains that tablet shoppers will get to choose between an iPad that starts at $499 and has an extremely deep selection of apps and content and a Xoom that starts at $100 more and is just getting started on the apps/content front. In other words, it’s Apple that appeals to price-conscious folks. That’s an utter reversal of what seemed to be an eternal verity of tech: Apple makes high-end products but doesn’t attempt to appeal to bargain hunters.
I know there are such things as low-cost Android tablets; Archos is probably the best-known maker of them. So far, though, most of the great big companies that are taking on the iPad don’t seem to be interested in competing for the business of the teeming masses of folks for whom even $499 may sound like a stretch. The one exception: RIM, which will apparently start the PlayBook at $499. (The PlayBook has a 7″ display versus the iPad’s 9.7-incher, but otherwise looks like it’ll be a beefy piece of hardware for the price.)
When the iPad was announced more than a year ago with its $499 pricetag, I assumed we’d shortly see iPad-esque devices from other major manufacturers that undercut it by $100 or more. Hasn’t happened yet; still seems like a big opportunity to me if it can be done while still eking out a profit. I’m beginning to wonder if the first big-name $399 tablet could end up being…an iPad.