Motorola Xoom tablet reportedly a flop – here’s the real issue

The great "Honeycomb" or Android 3.0 turns out to be great for the geek-set, but not for mainstream America.

Motorola Xoom at press launch CES 2011
Is this a Justin Bieber appearance or the unveiling of an "iPad Killer"?
Motorola Xoom at press launch CES 2011
Better days: Is this a Justin Bieber appearance or the unveiling of an "iPad Killer"?

Word this morning is that the Moto Xoom and Atrix are flops. Sales numbers indicate that the 10-inch Xoom tablet, a would-be iPad 2 killer which stole the show at CES in January, is virtually DOA – and it’s only been on the market for just a few weeks. While we dont know the exact sales figures, Pacific Crest analyst James Faucette told Forbes sales “have been disappointing.” Meanwhile he cut his 2011 revenue outlook for Motorola Mobility (MMI) to $12.8B (down from #13.7B).

There isn’t much surprise here.

One clue: when’s the last time you’ve seen a line-up of starry-eyed Xoom fans at Costco or Best Buy at 4am?

Perhaps Moto should’ve cut supply in half, or at least let it trickle in to stores slowly, one pallet-hauling UPS truck a time.

However, that’s all marketing and operations. Motorola’s bigger problem is with the manufacturer of the operating system that it relies on to power its product. That, of course, would be Google. The great “Honeycomb” or Android 3.0 turns out to be great for the geek-set, but not for mainstream America. Undoubtedly it’s powerful and impressive. That it was denied by engineers is undeniable. Here’s a test. Put an Apple iPad (1 or 2, both are great) next to a Motorola Xoom. Then tap the home button. Compare the start screens. Which looks easier, more fun to use?

The issues for Android Honeycomb run deeper still.

For almost a year now I’ve been crying out loud: Google needs a real answer to iTunes! Not a half-baked piece-meal of disjointed apps that might possibly make-up 20% of iTunes functionality when band-aided together. No – I mean a soup-to-nuts, built-from-the-ground-up, designed-by-aesthetic-perfectionists solution. It will have single touch access to music, movies, podcasts, books, games, and every known piece of Android content under the sun. It will sync across all your devices, magically (i.e. Amazon Whispernet). It will be nice to look at and simple to use. It will be free of course, and have lots of freebies that will ultimately entice consumers to start buying lots and lots of 99-cent apps and $3 movies.

Now… here’s the not-so-amazing twist:

Google and its partners will promote the EXPERIENCE. Not the SPEEDS AND FEEDS (as we used to say back in the day at Cisco).

Hardware specs are great, yes. But middle America wants to play Angry Birds. They want to poke their friends on Facebook. They want to look up a recipe or watch Colbert do his Friday bit. All of that other information — processor speed, memory architecture, multi-tasking — while important is not the reason why the Apple iPad sells like mad. Remember when we discovered the iPad 2 would not have the uber-sexy high-resolution next-gen display? According to some tech sites the sky was falling! I think now we know this didn’t matter to most consumers as many had predicted.

For now Moto can lament its losses and head back to the drawing board. But I think it needs to have a couple of fierce eye-to-eyes with the new CEO of its partner company. Google needs to re-tool its tablet OS, its content strategy and its marketing messaging if it has any hope of catching Apple in the tablet market.

Paging Larry… this little green robot is broken. Come quick.

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  • mla

    I think your article is way too early to judge. The Xoom isn’t even available in most countries so to call it a flop is ridiculous since it just came out (wifi version anyway). Honeycomb is awesome. The biggest thing I hate about apple products is the need for itunes, it is terrible. Pressing home on my Xoom looks much better than an ipad with a grid of apps. I can quickly roll through twitter feeds, CNN stories, facebook status without needing to hunt and peck for applications. The lack of a decent notification mechanism in IOS is also a deal breaker. The limited multi-tasking is brutal. The fact I can play all my ripped dvd’s without itunes conversion is awesome. Being able to see the web with flash is a bonus. The only thing that apple has right now is a head start on the amount of apps.

  • Wachinagi

    I going to have to go with…”What are you talking about?!?!” Which one looks more fun to use? Google needs an answer to iTunes?

    First: If you are so unintelligent that you only want to play Angry Birds on a tablet instead of using it to its full potential, then yes buy a ipad. Many stupid people have ipads.

    Second: if you want an answer to itunes, you’re going to have to be much clearer. itunes on the device, or itunes on the PC you sync to? Either way, there is an answer. Double twist on the PC looks and feels like itunes, AND has a built in Android app store, AND can play files that itunes cannot. (Score one for Double Twist MP3 Player). On the device, you CAN play any tunes you bought from itunes, and you can buy from Amazon MP3 store, and you can transfer music from any CD you own.

    The XOOM Hardware destroys the ipad. It’s capabilites far exceed the ipad.

    All you’ve said here is basically this:

    Buy a XOOM if you’re smart enough to own one, buy an ipad if you’re a moron. Yet somehow you make it sound as though buying the XOOM is a bad idea. i.e. being smart is bad. I wonder if we see that anywhere else in our “culture”? (I bet you’re a big fan of Jersey Shore)

    • Jonbonney1981

      What an awful, pro-Apple article. I’m no blinkered Apple hater (I’ve got a mac mini which is ace), but I have owned an android phone for 2 years, and what google have achieved is amazing. To spend all that web space bad mouthing the xoom because ‘It’s not what middle America wants’ is just foolish. I live in England, and their’s the same fanatical shit when Apple release something here too. The xoom is a grower, it will get better and better, and that’s mostly down to Android. I’m confident that when the IPad 3 comes out, my xoom will be still be a better machine, and that’s what makes Android so good. I won’t have to spend another £500 to keep up with the techno Jones’, they’ll be trying to keep upo with me, with my ‘older’ xoom.