I'm sad that I'm happy about the WiFi Xoom

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So now it's official: the WiFi-only Motorola Xoom is launching on March 27th at seven different retailers. The price will be $599, and that price seems to be causing much rejoicing. In fact I was happy to hear it myself.

And then I became very sad that the tablet manufacturers have me thinking of $600 as a great price for a tablet.

It isn't that the WiFi Xoom is gimped in any way; aside from the removal of the 3G radio it's the same Xoom that's been on sale for a few weeks now: same Nvidia Tegra 2 "super chip", same 32 GB memory, dual cameras, 10.1" screen and Android Honeycomb. It lines up very nicely with the 32 GB WiFi iPad, which costs exactly the same price. Network World's Wayne Rash pitted the devices against each other in a battle royale and declared the fight a draw.

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So I don't mean to accuse Motorola of not providing good value for the money; at least not unless I'm ready to accuse Apple of the same thing. But I still feel that tablets need to be considerably cheaper. $600 isn't an impulse or a commodity price. I still want a tablet that is cheap enough that I don't worry about it constantly. In fact in a perfect world I'd be able to afford a couple of tablets and leave them laying around the house. One by the couch in the living room for when I'm watching TV, another on the bedside table. I'm thinking of a $200-$300 device.

My values are slowly being skewed by the "big" tablet manufacturers and their pricing structures. Compared to the $800 Xoom, the $600 Xoom seems like a great deal, right? Now to be fair, the original (and soon to be obsolete) 7" Galaxy Tab is now down to $300...but you have to sign up for a two-year contract. Still, that price erosion (just a few months ago the Galaxy Tab was $500 with a contract) gives me hope. I really want to return to those happy days when $300 seemed like a good price for a good tablet.

Peter Smith writes about personal technology for ITworld. Follow him on Twitter @pasmith.

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