As you've probably heard, the Motorola Xoom won CNET's best-in-show award at CES 2011. I was there when they made the announcement, and I'm almost as annoyed about it now as I was then. I debated a lot about writing this article- I respect the hell out of CNET and, honestly, I get why the Xoom has them so excited. I played with it a couple of times this week and walked away duly impressed.
Here's one thing you may not be aware of. The Motorola Xoom at CES 2011 was not a functional product. It was just a nigh-blank slate loaded up with videos and images of what Honeycomb will look like when it finally launches. And the videos were impressive, don't get me wrong. But they did not equal a functioning product.
It'd be one thing if that was the case with every tablet at the show. But it wasn't. Toshiba's tablet at least had a live background and some apps loaded. The mysterious unnamed Acer tablet could play at least one game. RIM's BlackBerry Playbook was freaking gorgeous, and pretty much 100% functional.
Imagine if Notion Ink had brought an Adam slate out loaded with videos of the Eden UI instead of a working demo unit. They'd have been slammed by every blogger and journalist for being "scammy".
But Motorola's Xoom gets a pass. Why? The award is best IN SHOW. Not "coolest in concept" or "theoretically the best at some point this quarter".
Again, I liked the Xoom, and I think Moto is an excellent manufacturer. But throwing the best-in-show award at a bunch of concept videos in a pretty package is damaging to both the industry, and the field of tech journalism. If what Motorola did was enough to earn them the most prestigious award at the biggest show of the year, every other company in the industry now has less motivation to bring REAL products to CES.
The advantage of a trade show like this is that it gives journalists and industry personnel a chance to look at products before they launch. This is important. Our job is to advise customers- especially the early adopters that drive this industry- on what to buy. On what WORKS. The Xoom could end up being terrible, or missing some key features, or shipping way later than Q1.
We don't know what will happen, because the product was saw was nothing close to functional. And if something bad does happen, if the Xoom disappoints for some reason, every tech journalist in the world will lose credibility in the eyes of consumers.
But hey, at least we all got to fawn over a pretty, glittering box of lights. Apparently that is the core of a journalist's duty.