Ina Fried

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Motorola’s Wi-Fi Xoom Aims to Take On the iPad

Motorola Mobility on Wednesday announced its plan to try to further rival the iPad with a Wi-Fi-only version of its Xoom tablet. The device will sell for $599 and hit shelves on March 27.

Although its price tag is higher than the $499 sticker price of the entry-level iPad 2, by including 32GB of flash memory, Motorola was able to match the price of a comparably equipped iPad, which also sells for $599.

By lining up components ahead of time, analysts say Apple appears to have a cost advantage over its tablet rivals–an advantage exacerbated by the fact rivals have gone with higher-end parts, including more DRAM memory and higher-end cameras. By adding more flash memory, though, Motorola was able to stack up more favorably against the iPad.

Motorola also appears eager to take advantage of the Xoom’s brief window of exclusivity as the only tablet running the Honeycomb version of Android. The Xoom is Google’s “lead device” for the new Android version, but a flurry of Honeycomb tablets are on their way, including models from Samsung, LG and Toshiba, just to name a few.

Until now, the Xoom has come only in models ready for Verizon’s network, although AT&T has said it plans to offer the Xoom at some point. The Verizon model can also be used with Wi-Fi only without committing to Verizon service, but it carries a higher $799 price tag if users elect not to go for a contract. Apple charges $130 extra for iPad models with cellular data capabilities, with no service requirement.

The new Wi-Fi Xoom model will be sold at a number of big-name retailers including Amazon, Best Buy, Costco, RadioShack, Staples and Walmart and select Sam’s Club locations.