Motorola Xoom 2 for business

Motorola XoomThe original Motorola Xoom was another hopeful iPad killer that history left behind. To the company’s credit, it has taken the lessons learned by the Xoom’s shortcomings and done the best job possible the second time around. But the question remains: is it a better proposition than the ubiquitous Apple challengers or the iPad itself?

Firstly, everything about it feels better in your hands. The corners are angled differently from most other tablets I’ve seen and despite it being slimmer and lighter than its predecessor, it feels tougher with the rubberised backing making it non-slip and pleasant to hold.

It has received two big display upgrades to make the visuals better. The first is Corning’s Gorilla Glass, the new screen technology that’s thinner and more damage resistant than previous generation mobile screens. The second is In-Plane Switching (IPS), a system that uses the liquid crystals in the display to expand the viewing angle and contrast.

There’s not usually much to be said for the socket that connects a device to power or your PC, but the Xoom’s change to a standard micro USB port is worth mentioning. If you’re coming from the older Xoom you’ll remember it had a proprietary socket and pin array, locking you into a certain kind of charger and cable which will now be useless.

Now if you’re coming from another tablet, there’s more chance existing cables and power peripherals will fit it the Xoom 2.

The specs are more than adequate for average office tablet productivity and the 10.1″ screen competes well with the iPad. The most attractive aspect for business might actually be the preloaded collaboration apps, such as Citrix GoToMeeting and a videoconferencing app called Fuze.

You might also make good use of Motocast, which streams media directly from your PC to the Xoom. If you work with a lot of presentations, slideshows or marketing videos that you don’t want taking up space on your tablet you can still view them unshackled from your desktop system. All are easy to set up and use and make the Xoom 2 a good companion to a PC or Mac laptop if you’re on the road. It also syncs painlessly with a Microsoft corporate Exchange Server.

But for the price of $720 outright or monthly data plans varying from $29 to $89, there are two caveats. The Xoom 2 runs on Android 3.2 (Honeycomb), an older operating system now that so many devices run on 4.0 (known as Ice Cream Sandwich). Motorola promises you’ll be able to upgrade to the new operating system in the future but when contacted by IT Pro, the company, currently being acquired by Google, wouldn’t say specifically when. Note that at the moment you can already buy tablets that are comparable in specs with the Xoom 2 and already working on Ice Cream Sandwich.

The other potential stumbling block is that the Xoom 2 is 3G. If you’ve been following the news over the last month you’ll know that there are few true 4G devices in Australia thus far, 4G network signal only exists in a handful of dense population centres, and that Apple is in the middle of a very embarrassing offer to refund customers who feel they’ve been swindled by its advertising of the iPad’s 4G capabilities in Australia (it’s compatible with US 4G networks only), thanks to the ACCC.

Either way there’s not likely to be a comprehensive national 4G network locally this financial year, if in 2012 at all. But it will happen, and as such the Xoom will only be future proof for the next 12 months or so.

Security is an issue in business, and Android isn’t as secure out of the box as either Apple’s tablet operating system, nor will it be for Windows Mobile’s forthcoming update. That said, it’s not hard to secure a tablet fleet in a corporate deployment.

For that reason, the Xoom 2 is a good choice right now. If you’re current purchase needs to last longer than a year, wait for a 4G update. If you can instigate a stop gap measure to get staff used to tablet and have the budget to upgrade a fleet in 12 months, it’s a great proposition.

But to further complicate things, IT Pro recommends waiting about six months. As 4G spreads, many 3G models will come down considerably in price, and the Xoom 2 may be one of them.

Processor: 1.2GHz dual-core processor
Operating System: Android 3.2
Display: 10.1″
Cameras: 1.3 MP front and 5 MP rear-facing HD, auto focus, digital zoom, LED flash.
Memory: 1GB RAM
Storage: 32GB onboard, 32GB micro SD card slot
Dimensions: 253.9mm x 173.6mm x 8.8mm
Connectivity: 3G and Wi-fi
Score: 3.5/5