Weak HP TouchPad Sales Flagged At US Retailer

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HP is reportedly facing slow sales of its TouchPad device in one of the major North American retail chains

More signs are emerging of non-Apple tablets struggling against the might of the iPad, after a report highlighted flagging sales of Hewlett-Packard’s TouchPad at Best Buy stores in North America.

“According to one source who’s seen internal HP reports,” read an 16 August piece by Arik Hesseldahl on AllThingsD, “Best Buy has taken delivery of 270,000 TouchPads and has so far managed to sell only 25,000.”

That’s apparently causing tension between HP and Best Buy executives, he added. “HP, for its part, is pleading with Best Buy to be patient.”

Price Cut

Six weeks after its arrival, HP slashed the TouchPad’s price by $100 (£61), to $399 (£242) and $499 (£302) for the 16GB and 32GB models, respectively. That’s a 20 percent cost reduction, something businesses do not tend to make with new products unless they want to spur adoption, perhaps because of anaemic sales.

HP needs its TouchPad and other mobile initiatives to succeed in a game-changing way. The company derives the substantial bulk of its revenues from PC sales, which have slowed in recent months (that is also one of the reasons why Microsoft’s Windows-related revenue declined 1 percent in the company’s fiscal fourth quarter).

As devices such as tablets and smartphones become the centre of people’s everyday computing lives, the mobility segment has the potential to replace any revenue lost by soft PC sales – but in order to capitalise on that trend, a manufacturer needs to introduce a line of compelling devices that people will actually want to buy.

Tablet Appeal

HP’s acquisition of Palm in 2010 was supposed to provide the foundation for such a line. Despite some rough years and crash-and-burn products, the name “Palm” retails considerable brand equity. And HP certainly wasted no time using its new asset, soon announcing that it would bake Palm’s webOS not only into tablets and smartphones, but also desktops and notebooks.

On paper, it seemed a solid strategy, one that would give HP a broad, multi-device ecosystem along the lines of what Apple’s done with its iOS. But the strategy also depends on devices such as the TouchPad succeeding with both consumers and businesses.

Certainly HP is determined to see the TouchPad succeed. In addition to the recent price cuts, the company has pushed an over-the-air software update for the tablet, designed to tweak many of the issues cited by reviewers upon the initial release.

HP’s quarterly earnings report is due 17 August, but it’s an open question whether it will contain unit sales for the device.

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