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Xoom & bust

Well, this is alarming. We all had such high hopes for Motorola's Xoom, the first tablet to be released running Google's Android software in its 'Honeycomb' tablet-friendly-version. It was supposed to be the first tablet to rival Apple's iPad.

But it was expensive, and Honeycomb was kind of messy, and the reviews were consequently mixed. And the sales? Well, they were bad. After a few weeks, the Xoom had only sold a measly 250,000 units.

Oh well, we said. They'll cut the price, and release a wi-fi only version, and Honeycomb will get better, and sales will pick up. Right?

Turns out, not so much. Even though all those changes happened, sales don't seem to have really improved. Over the last three months, the company has just admitted, it sold just 440,000 Xooms worldwide. That's in contrast with iPad sales measured in the millions. 'The Motorola Xoom Android tablet flopped big time,' Wired puts it bluntly.

What does this mean for Android tablets? Well, the failure of one is not the failure of all. Asus' Eee Pad Transformer, for example, has been selling better, mostly because it's cheaper. The lesson seems to be that, much as with phones, Android tablets are going to need to undercut Apple on price to compete. It's a lesson most manufacturers seem now to have learnt - Samsung's new Galaxy Tab 10.1, for example, has been priced to be competitive with the iPad.

Our hunch, though, is that we're not going to see a really big-selling tablet until Google releases the next version of Android, Ice Cream Sandwich, later this year. That'll be much more flexible in terms of screen size, opening the door for tablets in an iPad-aping 4:3 shape. Frankly, the more Android tablets can look and feel like the iPad, we reckon, the better...

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