10 Reasons to Buy Xoom (and 2 Not to)

iPad love is everywhere — even in corporate America. Apple claims 80% of the Fortune 100 are at least testing the device but the real headline news is that suddenly, undeniably, we are in the era of the tablet. Analysts predict tablet sales may hit 242 million by 2015, up from 20 million in 2010, which was basically up from zero the year before.

That means businesses will be buying tablets by the bushel. Our advice is plain: hold off on buying iPad because, say some analysts, Motorola’s Xoom is the tablet built for business.

Here’s why:

1. “It is LTE, or soon will be when the patch rolls out, which makes Xoom better for hosted solutions that security requirements dictate for enterprise,” said telecom analyst Rob Enderle. Xoom shipped as 3G but the 4G LTE upgrade is promised as a freebie in the near-term, and there are no 4G noises out of Cupertino yet. Besides better security, the 4G patch will also give Xoom a huge speed advantage.

2. The Android open apps marketplace will let enterprises build custom content and load it on devices with no fuss, no bother, said Aamer Ghaffar, executive vice president at ViralMesh, a developer of enterprise mobile solutions. This could be big for enterprise, which, in many cases, will want to install its own custom apps and this happens much easier in the open Android world.

3. “It has a high resolution 5 megapixel camera, one of the best I have tested for capturing information in the field,” said Enderle.

4. Xoom also offers something much closer to true multi-tasking than does iPad (which still lags behind in this essential productivity feature).

5. Xoom is built to be hacked to serve enterprises’ specific needs. Within days of release, message boards were filled with gloating reports of just how easy it is to modify the Xoom’s guts, even over-clocking the CPU for blazing speed. “Sure, a company could jailbreak their iPad fleet but that has significant support and warranty issues associated with it,” said C. Scyphers, chief technical architect at Daemon Consulting.

6. Tabbed browsing is built into the Chrome app on Xoom. iPad offers an eccentric multi-screen view that just is not as fast or easy to use as Xoom’s tabs.

7. Even unhacked, the Xoom’s Tegra 2 1GHz dual-core processor beats the pants off iPad in speed tests and, particularly, in its graphics – territory Apple conquered with its iPhone 4. “Gorgeous” is the word some gear heads are using for the graphics on Xoom.

8. Upgrade the data plan (to $35/month, from the $20 baseline via Verizon) and Xoom can function as a Hotspot to power smartphones and other tablets. Up to five additional devices can be run off Xoom. Great for business meetings.

9. Xoom is born free — it’s capable of a stand-alone existence. Not so iPad (or iPad 2), which is tied to iTunes running on a computer. What if the tablet is an employee’s only device? Xoom is the less encumbered choice.

10. There’s also no Gorilla Glass on iPad. It’s on Xoom. This makes Xoom one tough tablet. That is good in any business whose employees can be counted on to drop the device and otherwise mistreat it.

Add up the plusses and there are plenty of reasons for enterprise to give Xoom a closer look. No tablet is more powerful, no tablet is faster, and the ease with which an enterprise can load custom apps makes it a must consider for any business developing a tablet deployment strategy. On the down side, but not really a “reason” not to look is Flash does not run on the Xoom. Ditto iPad so there’s no plus/minus either way. Supposedly that is being remedied with Xoom asap but, right now, the Flash fight is a draw.

Said ViralMesh’s Gaffar: “We have selected Motorola Xoom as our Enterprise Mobility solutions platform of choice. We are confident that CIO’s will select Xoom.” But before calling this fight, we have to acknowledge that there is at least one area of frustration with Xoom, and two possible deal breakers that need to be factored into the decision making:

2 reasonsnot to

1. Business productivity apps are not plentiful for Xoom. Apple offers excellent word processing, presentation and spreadsheet apps for iPad, there’s nothing comparable for Xoom. Honeycomb apps (designed to run on the Android 3.0 OS for tablets) are thin on the ground. Give it time, however. A few months from now the apps will be there. But, in today’s face off, it is easier to do real work on iPad.

2. Price is a stumbling block with Xoom. Best price for Xoom is $599 with a two-year data contract from Verizon. Unsubsidized, the price tag is $799 at BestBuy. The top of the line iPad 2 costs $729, while a stripped WiFi only model is $499. Motorola has talked about releasing a WiFi only model, perhaps only in Europe, but dates and price have not been released.

Crunch all the numbers and, say some experts, the Xoom deal on Verizon may be the best on the table especially since there are no comparable subsidized deals for iPad (presumably, too, the Verizon price can be negotiated further down for bulk buys).

Robert McGarvey – As a busy freelance writer for more than 30 years, Rob McGarvey has written over 1500 articles for many of the nation’s leading publications―from Reader’s Digest to Playboy and from the NY Times to Harvard Business Review. McGarvey covers CEOs, business, high tech, human resources, real estate, and the energy sector. A particular specialty is advertorial sections for many top outlets including the New York Times, Crain’s New York, and Fortune Magazine.