By Patrick Avenell

SYDNEY, NSW: $840 is the magic figure. Telstra last night affixed that pricetag to both the Motorola Xoom tablet and the Atrix smartphone. These devices will be available on 24 May and 7 June respectively.

At an information packed launch last night at the University of Technology in Sydney, Motorola ANZ managing director Timo Brouwer spoke of tradition and flexibility, revelling in the American brand’s status as a founding father of mobile communication technology, whilst also boasting of the brand’s adaptability since separating from the Motorola enterprise and government division. After the ho-hum days following the decline of clamshells, Motorola has backed this up with a series of competent device releases, such as the Defy and the Dext.

Although Brouwer spoke of Motorola working closely with Google to develop Android 3.0 (Honeycomb), the delay in the Xoom’s local release (including the ignominy of being beaten to market by Acer) has made some of his claims, such that the Xoom is the first Honeycomb device, confusing at best and misleading at worst. Proper assessment of the device is still required (and will follow on this site), but on face value, there is a real me-too feel to the Xoom.

It has the same OS as the A500 and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1v, the same basic form factor, the same core features and benefits. In fact, by not including a USB port, the Xoom is actually less featured in hardware spec than the A500, which is $261 cheaper, by RRP.

Where Motorola breaks away from the pack — and this applies to the Atrix as well — is in accessorising its new releases. For the Xoom, there are two docks: Standard and Speaker, which allow for charging, audio enhancement and HDMI connection to Full HD TVs. A slimline QWERTY keyboard can be paired with Xoom via Bluetooth to enable typing.

Sold separately with the Atrix is the LapDock, which docks to the smartphone to create a netbook experience. By accessing the Atrix’s memory content through the LapDock, users can watch videos on a large screen, compute with the functionality of a laptop PC (though only with necessitated minimalism) and access a full function browser (Firefox) through the phone’s 3G or Wi-Fi access.

The Motorola Atrix connected to the LapDock.

Because these accessories are to be sold through the traditional consumer electronics retail channels, these releases provide a rare opportunity for the JB Hi-Fis of the world to capitalise on the release of smartphone above and beyond whatever margin there is in an outright sale. With the LapDock set to retail for RRP $449, that provides significantly more revenue than a protective case barely getting out of single figures.

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Speaking with last night, Motorola ANZ director of sales Anthony Petts spoke convincingly of how the manufacturer is determined to broaden the functionality of the smartphone. Already lauded for its web access, email and application platform, the smartphone is still not fully evolved, said Petts, and that accessories such as the LapDock provide an added element to the evolving story.

This website praised Motorola for innovating within a congested space when releasing the Defy last year. Once again, Motorola has carved its own niche within this market, announcing itself as the smartphone provider that wants to try new things and revel in its own risk taking. It’s therefore a pity that the Xoom felt so bland.

It will take a while to properly assess both devices; to come to conclusions as to what model is best for which consumer, but we will have dedicated articles for both the Xoom and the Atrix by the time of their release.

The Xoom is available from Telstra for RRP $840 or on one of three 24-month plans, with the following minimum monthly repayments: $54 (1GB), $74 (7GB), $94 (12GB).

The Atrix is available from Telstra for RRP $840 or one of the telco’s Freedom Connect Plans.

The new Motorola Xoom is out 24 May 2011.