The Xoom betters the iPad in some ways--it comes standard with front- and rear-facing cameras, including one that can record in HD, compared with none in the current version of the iPad. It also boasts a larger screen with a higher resolution, supports Adobe Flash, and uses Verizon's network instead of AT&T's.
It will become the first device to run the latest version of Google's Android operating system, known as Honeycomb. The operating system supports multitasking and has been designed explicitly for tablets.
Motorola Mobility CEO Sanjay Jha told reporters at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this afternoon that the device will be available in stores in the first quarter of 2011 in 3G form. All of the 3G Xooms "are capable" of being upgraded to 4G later this year, he said.
Jha didn't announce how much the device will cost and Motorola ended the event without taking questions from reporters.
This will be "the most competitive product in the marketplace," Jha predicted. (Motorola recently split into two publicly traded companies, Motorola Mobility Holdings and Motorola Solutions.)
The Xoom (pronounced "zoom") will operate on Verizon Wireless' network and be upgradeable to 4G LTE in the second quarter of the year, with units sold thereafter including 4G by default. It was not immediately clear if a Wi-Fi-only version would be available, but the companies' statement appeared to indicate it would not be, and the photos of the tablet show a Verizon logo on the top right corner.
Jha showed some videos of the tablet in action but told reporters it was still under development and would not be available for hands-on demonstrations today.
In terms of specifications, the Xoom has a dual-core processor with each core running at 1 GHz, a 1,280x800 resolution (compared with the iPad's 1,024x768), a 10.1-inch 16:10 display (larger than the iPad's 9.7 inches), and supports Google Maps 5.0 with 3D buildings. It can capture 720p video with the rear camera.
Motorola also announced three accessories: a leather case that doubles as a stand, a standard dock for charging and display, and a "speaker HD" dock. The latter includes three USB ports, HDMI output, and built-in speakers. There's also a Bluetooth keyboard, but any should work.
Meanwhile, expect to see other Android-based tablets very soon. Also this afternoon, T-Mobile and LG Mobile Phones announced their G-Slate tablet, which will also run Honeycomb on T-Mobile's HSPDA+ 4G network, and be available in the next few months.
Update 8:45 p.m. PT: CNET TV has posted a six-minute video that shows how the Xoom tablet handles tab-based browsing, Google Maps in 3D, e-book reading through Google's marketplace, and movies. Here's Motorola's Xoom Web site. And here's a CNET first take on the G-Slate tablet including a video.