Motorola Mobility hits ground running with Android 3.0 tablet, 4G smartphones

CEO says Atrix 4G, Droid Bionic, Cliq 2 smartphones and Xoom tablet are examples of how the newly formed company will stay competitive

Motorola Mobility announced at the Consumer Electronics Show three new smartphones and the Xoom tablet running the new Android 3.0 operating system, formerly code-named Honeycomb -- just one day after its official spin-off as a separate company.

Verizon Wireless will sell both the Xoom and a new Android smartphone from Motorola, the Droid Bionic, the carrier announced separately.

Xoom will launch on 3G and Wi-Fi in the first quarter, with the capability to upgrade to 4G LTE in the second quarter, when the Xoom will be sold as a 4G LTE/Wi-Fi-ready device, Verizon said.

Motorola Mobility CEO Sanjay Jha said that Android 3.0 is designed for tablets and will improve the user experience for running widgets, multitasking, browsing and other features.

Xoom's software is not completely ready, so reporters were not able to handle the device, although three Motorola smartphones, including the Droid Bionic, were available for close-up demonstrations.

In addition to the Droid Bionic, Motorola allowed reporters to hold the new Motorola Atrix, which will be sold by AT&T, and the Cliq 2, to be sold by T-Mobile USA.

Jha described the new Motorola Mobility smartphones and Xoom as one way the newly formed company will stay competitive in the market, which Samsung now dominates in the Android smartphone and tablet markets in the U.S. with its Galaxy S and Galaxy Tab devices.

A big feature of the Xoom and two of the smartphones are their dual-core processors, with each core running 1GHz for a total of 2 GHz.

The new dockable Atrix 4G, which will be sold by AT&T, supports dual-core processors also, for a total of 2 GHz. It was announced earlier in the day by AT&T.

Jha described the Atrix as a device that many IT managers will favor, since it can be docked with an 11.6-in. laptop and can be used to power a full-size display, keyboard and mouse.

IT managers in focus groups told Motorola that the Atrix will eliminate the need to support multiple computing devices in workplace settings.

It also comes with a fingerprint reader for fast unlocking of the device and greater security, a feature designed to attract enterprise buyers.

AT&T's Jeff Bradley, senior vice president of devices, called Atrix 4G a "game-changer" and promised that pricing will be "competitive." Bell Canada and Orange UK will also sell the device.

The Droid Bionic also will feature a dual-core processor for a total of 2 GHz, but perhaps its biggest feature is that it will be an LTE-capable smartphone for Verizon.

Verizon's LTE network was launched in December and reaches about 40 U.S. markets. Verizon didn't discuss the cost or release date for the Bionic.

Motorola Droid Bionic
Motorola Mobility's new Droid Bionic

Motorola also announced the Cliq 2 to run on T-Mobile USA; it will be sold starting Jan. 19. Pricing was not announced. The Cliq 2 runs Android 2.2 and features a 1-GHz processor, a touch screen and a slide-out physical keyboard.

Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney said Motorola might be able to sell the Xoom tablet to enterprise users, which would hurt sales of promised tablets from Research In Motion and Cisco, depending on pricing and when their tablets are finally released.

Noting that LG also announced an Android 3.0 tablet on Wednesday, Dulaney said the "flood" of announced tablets might not matter unless they ship right away, before Apple announces its second-generation iPad, expected this spring. "Apple will still have the upper hand when they lay down their cards," Dulaney said.

Motorola's biggest concern will be when Verizon brings out an iPhone, as rumored for this spring, he says. "If they weather that storm, then they will be OK," Dulaney said of Motorola. "In heavily saturated markets, it comes down to advertising and other marketing efforts."

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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