Wi-Fi Xoom might be cheaper than expected

Rumor has it that Staples will carry a Wi-Fi-only version of Motorola's Xoom tablet starting at the end of this month. Total cost? Only $600. This comes about a week after another rumor suggested that Sam's Club might offer the Wi-Fi slate for just $540.

Yes, I know, that's still more expensive than Apple's cheapest iPad. But that thing has only 16GB of storage capacity—half what you get in the Xoom. Want a Wi-Fi-only iPad 2 with 32GB of flash? That'll be $600. Oh, and you're gonna have to live with a lower display resolution and fewer megapixels for the integrated cameras.

A big chunk of the iPad's appeal seems to be the fact that you can get the base Wi-Fi version for $500. That model's 16GB storage should be sufficient for folks using the device to surf the web, read email, and play a little Angry Birds. Apple hasn't revealed what percentage of iPad buyers stick with the base configuration, but I'd expect it to be the majority—probably a significant one.

Thus far, none of the iPad's big-name competitors have lined up directly opposite the $500 model. I've gotta applaud Apple's decision to offer a relatively inexpensive entry price to the whole tablet craze. At the same time, I can't help but be a little bit perplexed that none of Apple's rivals seem to have realized the importance of that low-end model. $600 is a lot of money, especially for early adopters who may be struggling to justify the cost of something that duplicates much of the functionality of their existing smartphone and notebook.

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