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New Motorola shines at CES

Attendees Consumer Electronics Show listen Motorolrepresentative talk about new MotorolXoom tablet Thursday Jan. 6 2011 Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Attendees at the Consumer Electronics Show listen to a Motorola representative talk about the new Motorola Xoom tablet, Thursday, Jan. 6, 2011 in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

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Updated: January 13, 2011 5:44PM

While Wall Street is bullish on the prospects of the newly minted Motorola Mobility, the company’s ultimate success will depend on how consumers will respond to its stable of smartphones and tablet devices.

So far, so good.

Motorola Mobility’s presence at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week was a big hit. The newly unveiled Motorola Xoom tablet computer figures to be the most formidable competitor to Apple’s iPad in the first half of the year. Motorola’s three new smartphones - like the Xoom, powered by Google’s Android mobile operating system - will also appeal to consumers across a variety of demographic profiles.

Xoom doesn’t have to be an iPad killer

More than 14 million of the 15 million tablet devices sold last year were iPads, and Apple didn’t even release the product to consumers until April. While Apple figures to get another bump when it unveils the next version of the iPad in the coming months, there is room for others to carve away market share in this massively growing segment that barely existed a year ago.

Of the dozens of Android-based tablets available, as well as new BlackBerry and Windows 7 tabs, the Xoom has the most going for it. From a purely aesthetic point of view, the Xoom heavily resembles the iPad, but with a larger screen and superior display resolution.

But it is on the inside that counts.

A special relationship with Google

CEO Sanjay Jha’s bet to get into business with Google a few years ago and power Motorola phones with Android is clearly paying off. While most major smartphone and tablet manufacturers — outside of Apple — have Android products, Google is apparently playing favorites among its partners.

The Xoom will be the first tablet to show off Android’s new Honeycomb software, which was developed specifically for tablets. Android apps like the 3D Google Maps 5.0 and Google Books (with access to more than three million titles in Google’s library) are presented magically on the Xoom.

While Motorola would not announce a price for the Xoom, which will be available in the coming months, representatives say the device will be offered at a “competitive price point.”

Four years after Apple changed the smartphone landscape, there are now more Android-based phones (albeit there are scores of them) sold than iPhones. As is also the case with personal computers, the majority of consumers ultimately move away from Apple in favor of other more open devices. The Xoom, as well future Motorola tablets, is well positioned to benefit from their migration.

Smartphones getting smarter

The three smartphones Motorola debuted at CES have something for everybody.

The Motorola Atrix 4G, which is coming this spring to AT&T subscribers, will appeal to technology enthusiasts and others who want to bridge their mobile media experiences with their home entertainment centers. The Atrix is designed to connect with televisions and larger screen computing devices so consumers can finish off a game of Angry Birds in expanded form at home, or plug their phone into the TV via an HDMI cable to watch pictures and videos just taken at the kids soccer games.

The Droid Bionic, which like the Xoom will be carried by Verizon, is a multi-purpose phone that offers a nice blend of entertainment and productivity tools. The phone’s 4.3-inch screen is great for watching streamed videos (via a 4G network) and sorting through spreadsheets.

When the Motorola CLIQ debuted in 2009 it was heralded as the best social media phone around because of its ability to surface Facebook and Twitter feeds more efficiently. Unfortunately, much of the rest of the phone didn’t work. If Motorola successfully remedied those problems, the CLIQ 2, carried by T-Mobile, should be a hit with teenagers, young adults and the rest of the social media circuit.

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