There's a basic duality to the $99 TouchPad: a great bargain and a dead-end at the same time, as well as a simultaneous symbol of Hewlett-Packard's achievements and failures.
The TouchPad has been on sale for less than two months -- of course, the exact time period fluctuates, depending on whether one counts the later 'official' launch versus the first time TouchPads were available for sale. At the original $399/ $499 sale prices, HP was giving itself a slim enough margin; with August's $100 price drop, the strategy started to look more like damage control than a long-term gamble on profits.
Enough of the devices were sold to retailers to make the TouchPad's disappointing seven weeks look like nothing but a costly blunder for the company, who has reportedly set aside as much as $100 million to buy back or otherwise compensate retail partners. Big-box store BestBuy alone was chafing at some 250,000 surplus TouchPads, but stocks have certainly begun to move quickly now that the prices have dropped to a bargain-basement $99 ($149 for the 32GB model).
Announced just in time for the weekend, Monday's reports have indicated that BestBuy (as well as entire areas -- Australia and New Zealand, for example) is already sold out of the touchscreen tablets. This is some consolation to retailers, and some benefit to HP. But the real winners in the companies' misfortunes are the consumers, who now have access to a device that -- for all its shortcomings -- offers a lot of power and flexibility for $99.
Certainly, the lack of support and future development is a major drawback. But WebOS has not reached the end of the line yet, according to Stephen DeWitt, the senior vice president of HP/ Palm. In an interview with Bloomberg -- after HP's announcements last week -- DeWitt gave a certain amount of hope that the critically acclaimed mobile operating system would not be abandoned along with HP's other consumer operations.
The WebOS is not dead, DeWitt said. We're going to continue to evolve it, update and support it. We stand by it.
Of course, HP execs have made promises and predictions for WebOS ever since HP acquired Palm last year, and the first fruits of that merger have obviously not borne out such hopes. The support part, at least, is worth taking with a grain of salt -- HP has been clear that the company will not be supporting its WebOS hardware, for one thing.
And if the online community has proven anything over the decades, it is that there are plenty of individuals who are dedicated to keeping good ideas alive -- in their spare time, if need be. We are almost sure to see a homegrown TouchPad community spring up to provide 'unofficial' support and new uses for the orphaned technology for years to come.
James Lee Phillips is a Senior Writer & Research Analyst for IBG.com. With offices in Dallas, Las Vegas, and New York, & London, IBG is quickly becoming the leading expert in Internet Marketing, Local Search, SEO, Website Development and Reputation Management. More information can be found at www.ibg.com. Adam Kutner is a Las Vegas Personal Injury Attorney. He represents people who have been seriously injured in Nevada and the Las Vegas Area.