No doubt you've seen at least one mention of the 100,000-XOOM sales figure somewhere on the web today - and for me, it has reached the point of mild annoyance. From this number, all sorts of wild extrapolations and theories are being tossed around about Motorola's future, Android's future, and the viability of tablets in an Apple-dominated market.
Boy Genius Report took a step back, and presented a level-headed but clearly pro-XOOM take on the news:
So, according to Deutsche Bank, Motorola has sold 100,000 XOOM tablets in less than a month and a half, which is an average of over 75,000 units per month. That’s a flop?
The XOOM starts at $600, which means that is is responsible for $60 million in hardware sales at a bare minimum. That’s a flop? (emphasis ours)
What's being said there is something that probably rings true in the heads of most of you, our Android-loving (or at least Android-neutral) readers, and myself as well. Motorola launched a device in a market dominated by a single manufacturer, running an unfinished operating system, and at a pretty high price point. When you look at it that way, it kind of sounds like a product suicide mission, right?
Business Insider took the more predictable approach, calling the XOOM a "flop," comparing its sales and traffic to that of the iPad:
During March, Android 3.0 Honeycomb -- the OS running on the Xoom -- represented 0.07% of Business Insider's visits.
For comparison, the iPad was 3.1% of our visits, about 50 times bigger.
Fact aside that the iPad and iPad 2 are both included in that figure, it's pretty much the same way Deutschebank got to that 100,000 unit estimate - by analysis of web traffic. It's not the most accurate method in the world, but it's all we've got unless Google or Motorola start tossing numbers around.
But if we do assume it to be true for our purposes here, that still pegs XOOM sales at a rate of about 75,000 units per month, as BGR said. It's certainly not being beaten by any other Android tablet out there, and frankly its hardware and features will still be highly competitive when facing off against upcoming devices like the LG G-Slate and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1.
With the addition of a Verizon LTE model to the Motorola arsenal this summer, it'll have a new killer-feature as well. The XOOM is floating around in uncharted waters, and so far has done the best job navigating the iSea that is the tablet market.
It's not perfect, though, and it pretty clearly remains an enthusiast device. Our own staff have complained of the XOOM's finicky software and tendency to crash - no doubt the result of apparently significant gremlins Google has yet to purge from Honeycomb. There's also the decided lack of good tablet applications outside the ones Google offers, and iOS's vastly superior (for now) tablet game selection (including titles from Epic Games).
When you're up against a competitor that rules a market in such an outright fashion (~75% market share), that's a regime you're not going to topple overnight. Apple already has the app infrastructure, the advertising, repeat customers, and a reputation behind its tablet. Motorola, HTC, and Samsung have an uphill battle ahead of them, and they know it.
The XOOM is the first Android device to provide a dedicated tablet experience - I think Motorola was quite prepared for less than stellar sales, but they're also getting valuable feedback to perfect the XOOM's successor. They'll probably be the first to the fight on the next generation of Android tablets because of it, as well.
The market balked at the Nexus One for its abysmal sales figures. Who bought the Nexus One? Developers, generally - it's still probably the most-used developer phone, perhaps next to the original DROID. Who's buying the XOOM? The same group of people - the ones that want to be on the bleeding edge. And compared to the Nexus One, the XOOM is actually selling quite well. The Android tablet community is young, and only now is there a competitive device available with Google backing, and that's kind of important in getting the confidence of developers.
That community will build momentum, manufacturers will compete, people will buy more Android tablets every month. And I think we'll see the same snowballing effect that launched Android phones into relevance - we just need to give it some time.