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Motorola Xoom launching Feb. 17 at $700

Motorola Xoom launching Feb. 17 at $700

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The highly anticipated Motorola Xoom tablet will hit the stores on Feb. 17, starting at around $700, according to Engadget.

The launch of the Xoom, which won many admirers at the recent Consumer Electronics Show, offers only the second serious rival (after the Samsung Galaxy Tab) to the iPad. But the Xoom offers the first tablet to use the new Android Honeycomb OS – made specifically for tablets.

The inclusion of Honeycomb will be an important test. The Galaxy Tab had solid reviews, but not enough to threaten Apple. Honeycomb will need to improve the performance of the Xoom so that consumers will have a true rival to the iPad.

An obstacle for the Xoom may be the price, because, while the Xoom will offers some technical advantages to the iPad, much of that will be erased with the iPad 2 (expected in April). With the iPad costing between $500-830, there’s little financial incentive to buy a Xoom. If consumers put an iPad and a Xoom side-by-side, and the price and performance is not significantly different, which device will they choose?

The answer is the iPad. Just as they chose the iPod over the equally good Zune. People are familiar with the iPad, and many have used it (or related products such as the iPod Touch and iPhone). If a consumer is forced to choose, they will pick what they know and trust. That’s the iPad.

None Apple fans will, no doubt, be happy to have an alternative, but in the long run, people buy what works efficiently for them.