HP TouchPad Revived For A Final Limited Run

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HP is making a final US production run of its TouchPad in response to massive demand for the doomed tablet

Hewlett-Packard’s TouchPad apparently is not as dead as everyone thought, in the United States at least.

When HP killed its tablet earlier this month, slashing the price by hundreds of dollars in a bid to clear US inventory, a funny thing happened: Thousands of people rushed to stores and online to snatch up a high-end device at a steal. That was a startling reversal from the anaemic sales that marked the first six weeks of the TouchPad’s existence – and, evidently, enough for HP to consider producing another batch.

No Touchpad Bargains In The UK

In Britain the story was very different. Stocks held by HP were apparently not very high and the HP Palm division sent out an email to those who had pre-ordered the tablet. It contained the following:

“You will probably be well aware of the very high level of interest and demand for these products in Europe in light of what had transpired in the US where significant price reductions had taken place. We know a lot of you may also have placed orders in the expectation that a similar price reduction would have been announced in Europe. In good faith, and after communication with HP, we at the Palm Eurostore allowed pre-orders to be taken for these products at the standard price. We fully intended and expected to be able to fulfill these orders and if a price reduction were to be announced then we would have applied that new price to the orders.”

But it was not to be and all orders were cancelled. Those who ordered a Pre 3 smartphone were disappointed in the US but the Palm Eurostore did manage to drum up a few. They served them out at undisclosed bargain prices last weekend but many orders were cancelled by the online shop and customers are being refunded.

The announced last gasp production run is unlikely to spill over beyond North America.

“Despite announcing an end to manufacturing webOS hardware, we have decided to produce one last run of TouchPads to meet unfulfilled demand,” Mark Budgell, an HP spokesman, wrote in a corporate blog posting. “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.”

The tablets will be available sometime in the next few weeks, although Budgell declined to offer any information on an exact release date or pricing. HP still intends to shut down development and production of webOS devices, which include the company’s smartphone line in addition to the TouchPad.

Bargain Prices Exhausted Stocks

In the US, on the first weekend after HP announced it would kill the TouchPad, Best Buy and other retailers slashed the price of the 16GB tablet from $399 (£245) to $99 (£60), and the 32GB edition from $499 (£300) to $149 (£90). HP’s own Website also lowered the entry price to $99.

That is far below HP’s estimated cost for building each TouchPad, meaning that, if the company chooses to sell the latest run of tablets at the same price point, it will lose a significant amount of money.

HP had previously expressed high hopes for webOS, which it inherited as part of its $1.2 billion (£736m) acquisition of Palm in 2010. HP CEO Leo Apotheker had made no secret of his plans to eventually licence the operating system to other manufacturers, suggesting in a March 9 Bloomberg report that such a move would help create a “massive platform”. Also at that time, the company announced it would install webOS on all desktop and notebook computers in 2012.

Now it seems those plans are dashed, especially since HP plans on spinning off its PC manufacturing division in addition to killing, or selling off, webOS and  the tablet and smartphone products. According to a Reuters report, Todd Bradley, head of HP’s Personal Systems Group, said he intends to lead the PC division if it becomes a separate enterprise. Meanwhile, HP’s new strategy involves repositioning itself as a seller of software and services, which will place it in direct competition with the likes of Oracle and SAP, the latter Apotheker’s former company.

In the meantime, though, the TouchPad will apparently have one last, zombie-like market run before it is gone for good.

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