Motorola's Xoom tablet is up for an update, and the mobility giant has one in the form of a slimmer, lighter and faster model of its Android slab.
But don't go shopping for the premium Android-based tablet's sequel just yet. It's going to debut only in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
Faster, Lighter, Slimmer
Motorola, soon to become a subsidiary of Android-developer Google if regulators give their blessing, says the Xoom 2 is 10 percent lighter and 30 percent thinner with an improved, high-definition 10.1-inch screen, powered by a 1.2 gigahertz dual-core processor that's 20 percent faster. The Xoom 2 also allows users to stream files to their PCs via the MotoCast app.
Want a smaller version? Moto has the Xoom Media Edition, with an 8.2-inch screen. Both pack Android 3.2 with similar specs, though the bigger sibling promises more battery life, 10 hours as opposed to six. American customers can register now for information about availability. Prices have not yet been announced.
The current, 4G LTE-capable Xoom sells for $499 with a two-year data contract, and $669 a la carte.
First released in February of this year, just ahead of the iPad 2, the Xoom has struggled to gain a foothold in a tablet market that has been dominated by Apple's market-building tablet, with Samsung's Android-based Galaxy Tab also gaining some market share.
"The Xoom was prematurely released in that much of what it had that was better than the iPad wasn't working at launch," said Rob Enderle, principal technology analyst at The Enderle Group. "Flash support wasn't done -- it's a big differentiator -- many of the apps like Netflix weren't available yet, and Honeycomb was largely unfinished at launch. This was fixed over time and Best Buy told me it became their second-highest selling Android tablet."
Enderle noted, though, that this wasn't saying much since no Android tablets were selling close to the iPad, which sold 11 million in the third quarter alone.
Business Not Xooming
Motorola said it sold 440,000 Xooms in the second quarter, and worse in the third.
"In its most recent financial quarter, Motorola Mobility announced it had shipped only 100,000 additional Xoom tablets," said analyst Jeff Orr of ABI Research. "While widely viewed as selling poorly, this decrease in product volume could be attributed to phasing out the original product in advance of the second-generation Xoom 2."
Enderle said the update seems promising.
"The ARM [processor] technology in the first generation of tablets was underpowered. This generation is much closer to what people expect in a tablet and now the product feels far more complete," he said. "It is approaching its potential as one of the better iPad alternatives this round and a far better choice than the first edition was."
Enderle said the decision to launch in the U.K. is strategic.
"Apple is weaker in Europe, which is leading a number of vendors to release there first and then come to the U.S. rather than the other way around," he said. "That way they are more likely to have stronger initial success."