Mark (mhaithaca) wrote,

What would YOU pay for an HP TouchPad? (209.8)

Last Thursday's news that HP was dropping its entire Palm WebOS line wasn't a huge surprise to many, though it came sooner than most expected. It was, however, certainly a shame for those who've invested in a Palm Pre or Pixi phone (especially for Verizon Wireless's free tethering deal) or HP's post-acquisition offering, the TouchPad. It was a WebOS tablet that HP ill-advisedly introduced with roughly comparable capabilities to the iPad -- at the same price point.

Now, I suppose you could say that the same pricing for roughly the same hardware level is the right move, but in an industry with one overwhelming market leader, you've got to differentiate yourself somehow. "We have Flash!" wasn't going to be enough, and "We're not Apple!" was already being adequately covered by a couple of decent Android tablets by the time the TouchPad shipped last month.

HP quickly dropped their prices by a hundred bucks, but it was too late. A big marketing push with some of the creative TV commercials we've been seeing lately could eventually have turned the tide, but I guess HP decided they didn't want to wait.

Best of all? After the company decided to drop the product line, they decided they should clear out their not-insubstantial stock of TouchPads at fire-sale prices. The word quickly went around Saturday morning that the 16GB TouchPad was now $99, and the 32GB TouchPad was $149. Meantime, folks who'd been working to port Android to this top-notch hardware spoke up to say they thought they'd be ready with a workable version soon. Suddenly, everyone wanted one.

Reportedly, Best Buy stores had been told they were going to be sending back their stock, but I guess they eventually got permission to sell them at the clearance prices. (Presumably, HP offered price protection through the distributors.) Wal-Marts, though, were selling them like hotcakes, so since I needed some other stuff anyway, I headed there.

Sometimes, Ithaca's Wal-Mart seems to do better than most major metro stores at staying in-stock on hard-to-find items, but I guess Ithaca has too high a concentration of geeks! The guy in the electronics department said wearily that they'd sold out quickly in the morning, and he was getting a phone call every five minutes. I picked up the rest of the stuff I needed, and headed out, picking up the phone to call Best Buy.

"You don't have any TouchPads left, do you?" Well, it turned out they did! They were out of the $99 16GB model, though, but had a few left of the $149 32GB model. I asked for two, she took my credit card over the phone, and I went home to change for Caitlin and Kris's wedding, then swung by Best Buy on my way.

No, of course I don't need two, but I figured I would soon have a taker who'd be happy to have the second one at that price, and if not a friend, I could sell it for a little more to help pay for the one I wanted to keep. As for the one I'm keeping, I've always liked WebOS, so as long as that keeps working, I'll probably stick with it instead of installing Android. In fact, I bet a lot of developers are looking at this weekend's fire sale and thinking "Maybe a lot of those new WebOS users are just waiting to give me $2 for the cool new app I'm working on." And anyone considering picking up the WebOS division from HP has to be thinking the same thing.

Best Buy had the accessories still at full price, so I'm hoping those'll get dropped to clearance pricing soon, too. If so, I'll certainly grab one of the cool inductive charging stations that works with no connection, and probably a Bluetooth keyboard, which would presumably also work with my iPad. Maybe even a case.

Does the frenzy that erupted over the weekend for $99-149 TouchPads mean that HP could've sold through their inventory pretty quickly at a higher price? Almost certainly. I doubt I would've bothered at $250-300, but I think HP left some money on the table in deciding to ditch their stock at such low prices. $149-199 or $199-249 may have worked just as well to clear inventory, if not opened the gold rush to quite as many people who don't normally buy consumer electronics they don't strictly need. One good sign? I know a lot of the TouchPads that Best Buy sold this weekend were bought by their own chronically underpaid employees.

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