Hewlett-Packard: One final run of HP TouchPads is on the way
Hewlett-Packard's TouchPad tablet is set for one final production run.
After that, the TouchPad will be dead -- unless of course HP decides to bring it back to life, as mentioned as a possibility by an HP exec earlier today.
But, for now, the plan is to kill the HP TouchPad after this one last hurrah.
HP isn't saying how many TouchPads it will make in its farewell run, or when exactly the last gasp of tablets will land in stores, or even exactly which stores will sell the tablets (HP's online store is a safe bet).
Nonetheless, more TouchPads are on the way in the next few weeks at the same $99 (for a 16-gigabyte model) or $149 (for 32 gigabytes) to meet demand that persisted after the device had sold out across stores in the U.S. and Canada, HP spokesman Mark Budgell said in a company blog post.
"Since we announced the price drop, the number of inquiries about the product and the speed at which it disappeared from inventory has been stunning," Budgell said. "I think it's safe to say we were pleasantly surprised by the response."
Once HP cut the TouchPad down to as low as $99, the device sold out and inspired lines of people lining up outside Best Buy and other retailers, all of which is contributing to the firm's move to give its TouchPad another production run.
When the device first hit stores July 1, at a starting price of $499 (the same as Apple's iPad), it sat on store shelves and failed to lure any significant number of consumers. Afterward, the firm decided to end production of the TouchPad and all its other devices using the Web OS operating system.
"Despite announcing an end to manufacturing Web OS hardware, we have decided to produce one last run of TouchPads to meet unfulfilled demand," Budgell said. "We don't know exactly when these units will be available or how many we'll get, and we can't promise we'll have enough for everyone. We do know that it will be at least a few weeks before you can purchase."
Budgell added a list of frequently asked questions to his blog post, addressing questions on topics such as the availability of accessories and why some retailers (such as Wal-Mart) aren't taking part in the price drop like everyone else. Budgell directs readers to ask retailers, not offering an HP-sourced answer himself).
So, could more TouchPads, or even a newer, slimmer, faster, lighter TouchPad 2 arrive after the final run that wasn't supposed to have even happened? Now that HP has a TouchPad user base of possibly a few hundred thousand to either ignore or nurture, the answer to that question is even less clear than when the company announced it was discontinuing the devices Aug. 18.
It also remains unclear not only what HP has planned for the TouchPad and webOS, but also its PC business, which is the world's largest, yet also a unit that HP wants to either sell of spin off.
Despite all the uncertainty, the TouchPad seems to be a tablet that just won't die.
What do you think? Is HP making the right call in offering one final run of low-priced TouchPads? Should HP follow through and give up on the TouchPad? Or does all of this make a case for a newer, lower-priced TouchPad at a later date, maybe when HP knows what it's doing with its PC business? Sound off in the comments below.
-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: The Hewlett-Packard TouchPad tablet computer. Credit: Eric Risberg/Associated Press