The first real iPad competitor has emerged from the primordial knock-off ooze to present itself before the world's gadget freaks. The Motorola Xoom is roughly the same size as the iPad, costs a bit more, and runs the special tablet version of Google's Android operating system. The big-name gadget reviewers all took the device for a spin. The takeaway is this: nice device, but wait until you see what Apple unveils on March 2.

Walt Mossberg, Wall Street Journal: "Both Motorola's hardware and Google's new software are impressive and, after testing it for about a week, I believe the Xoom beats the first-generation iPad in certain respects, though it lags in others... As much as I like the Xoom and Honeycomb, I'd advise consumers to wait to see what Apple has up its sleeve next before committing to a higher price for the Motorola product."

David Pogue, New York Times: "If you're interested in a tablet, you'd be wise to wait a couple of months. You'll want to consider whatever Apple has up its sleeve for the iPad's second coming, of course, but also Research in Motion's business-oriented BlackBerry PlayBook and Hewlett-Packard's juicy-looking TouchPad tablet, which runs the webOS software (originally designed by ex-Apple engineers for the Palm Pre smartphone)... It's not crystal-clear at this point why the world needs all of these competing tablets, each with different operating systems and app stores. There's not enough differentiation to justify the coming onslaught of models; most of these companies seem to cranking out tablets just so they can say, "We have an iPad thingie, too!"

Joshua Topolsky, Engadget: "On the plus side (and it is a big plus), the Xoom feels much more like a real netbook or laptop replacement. Being able to multitask in the manner Google has devised, having properly running background tasks, and real, unobtrusive notifications feels really, really good in the tablet form factor... Is the Xoom a real competitor to the iPad? Absolutely. In fact, it outclasses the iPad in many ways. Still, the end user experience isn't nearly where it needs to be, and until Google paints its tablet strategy and software picture more clearly, we'd suggest a wait-and-see approach. Honeycomb and the Xoom are spectacular -- unfortunately they're a spectacular work in progress."

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