This author is an avid fan of tablet computing and thinks that Motorola’s imminent Xoom tablet is a flagship Honeycomb device. That said, I’m glad that a recent Best Buy pre-order page suggesting the Xoom could fetch a whooping $1,200 was just a placeholder. The company confirmed earlier today that the 32GB 3G Xoom with Verizon’s EVDO data service will retail unsubsidized for $800, or $70 more compared to the 32GB 3G iPad that goes for $729.

Top-of-the-line 3G iPad with twice as much memory costs a $100 more. Motorola’s tablet, of course, includes the latest hardware and will offer a free upgrade path to a 4G modem sometime in the second quarter of this year. Defending a higher price tag, Motorola Mobility Holdings’ boss Sanjay Jha told the Wall Street Journal that faster networking is worth the premium:

We felt that our ability to deliver 50Mb/s would justify the $799 price point. It is 32GB with 3G and a free upgrade to 4G. Being competitive with iPad is important. We feel that from the hardware and capabilities we deliver we are at least competitive and in a number of ways better [than the iPad].

The 32GB WiFi-only Xoom will retail unsubsidized for about $600, matching Apple’s pricing for the 32GB WiFi iPad model. "Competing with Apple you have to deliver premium products," Jha told Reutres at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. He did not elaborate on claims that the WiFi Xoom will be locked without one month of Verizon Wireless’ pricey data plan nor did he say when the product might be available for pre-order. The rumor-mill is claiming the Xoom might go on sale in the US as early as tomorrow.

Verizon Wireless and Best Buy will sell the Xoom in the US, with The Carphone Warehouse, Dixons Retail and Deutsche Telekom carrying the tablet in selected markets. Interestingly, the executive hopes the tablet market won’t be a two-horse race between Apple and Google and said his company was considering launching own application store. He also slipped that Google is working on a music store for Android to compete with iTunes.

The 10.1-inch Xoom tablet runs Android 3.0 Honeycomb software and packs in a dual-core Nvidia Tegra 2 processor that does 1080p HD video through an HDMI output. The gizmo boasts a five-megapixel camera on the back that captures 720p video and a two-megapixel front camera for video calling over WiFi, 3G EVDO or LTE.