Xoom Android tablet set for sale Thursday at Verizon

Apple iPad competitor, set to add Flash 10.2 support this spring, will cost $600 with contract; $800 without one

Verizon Wireless will start selling Motorola's Xoom tablet on Feb. 24 for $599.99 with a two-year service agreement, the carrier confirmed today.

Without a contract, the 10.1-in. Xoom, the first tablet to run the new "Honeycomb" version of Android, will cost $799.99.

Motorola Xoom

Motorola's Android 3.0-based Xoom tablet. (For a closer look at Google's tablet-focused mobile OS, see our visual tour: Android 3.0 has landed.)

Rumors that the Xoom would sell for $800 without a contract had started circulating in recent days, and some bloggers complained that the price tag was so high that it would discourage people comparing the Xoom to the 9.7-in. iPad and other devices currently selling in the $500-$730 range. An iPad with 32GB of storage and 3G service costs $729; an equivalent Xoom costs $799.99.

Verizon said that wireless 3G service for the Xoom starts at $20 a month for 1GB of data. Further details on 3G pricing were not immediately available.

Upgrades to 4G LTE service will be possible in the second quarter at no extra charge, Verizon added in a statement.

The Xoom also comes Wi-Fi-ready.

The Xoom was introduced at the Consumer Electronic Show in early January and was demonstrated at Mobile World Congress last week in Barcelona.

The first Xoom tablets to ship will not include support for Adobe Flash, but Adobe noted in a blog post yesterday that an over-the-air update to Flash Player 10.2 will be ready "within a few weeks of ... devices becoming available."

Flash support is considered by many to be an advantage that Android devices will hold over Apple products, like the iPad, that don't include Flash.

The Xoom will ship with a dual-core Nvidia Tegra 2 processor, with each core running at 1 GHz, for a total of 2 GHz of power.

The device includes two digital cameras, a front-facing 2.0-megapixel model that serves as a webcam for video chat, and a 5.0-megapixel camera on the rear for shooting still photos and 720p video. The Xoom has 1280-by-800 resolution, compared to the iPad's 1024-by-768. It is slightly thinner than the iPad, and both devices weigh 730 grams.

The Xoom will support Google services, and Verizon has noted on its Web site that Google Maps on the Xoom will quickly load 3D vector maps that can be tilted, rotated and enlarged.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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