Hewlett-Packard's TouchPad turned out to be a bestseller.
All HP had to do was kill the tablet, which in turn sparked a global fire sale at electronics retailers. Over the weekend, Best Buy slashed the price of the 16GB TouchPad from $399 to $99, and the 32GB version from $499 to $149. (That's on top of the $100 discount instituted by HP earlier in August, which drove the sticker price for the TouchPad down from $499 and $599, respectively, for the 16GB and 32GB models.) HP's own Website also lowered the entry price to $99.
That was enough to send customers swarming locust-style onto both online shopping Websites and brick-and-mortar stores, where they did their best to strip existing stocks of the device.
HP made the executive decision to kill the TouchPad a mere six weeks after its release, apparently in response to anemic sales. Critics had focused on the slowness of the user interface, something HP managed to somewhat fix with a software update. The TouchPad's app ecosystem was relatively spare, especially in comparison with Apple's App Store and Google's Android Marketplace; however, that hadn't dissuaded HP executives from touting the platform's potential to the bitter end.
"HP reported that it plans to announce that it will discontinue operations for webOS devices, specifically the TouchPad [tablet] and webOS phones," read the Aug. 18 statement released by the company ahead of its earnings call. "HP will continue to explore options to optimize the value of webOS software going forward." Its bottom-line revenue for the fiscal fourth quarter 2011 will absorb restructuring and shutdown costs associated with webOS devices.
HP had previously expressed high hopes for webOS, which it inherited as part of its $1.2 billion acquisition of Palm in 2010. HP CEO Leo Apotheker had previously made no secret of his plans to eventually license the operating system to other manufacturers, suggesting in a March 9 Bloomberg report that such a move would help create a "massive platform." That month, the company announced it would install webOS on all desktop and notebook computers in 2012.
But now those plans have crashed and burned-especially since HP plans on spinning off its PC division in addition to killing its tablet and smartphones. HP's big strategy is to reposition itself as a seller of software and services, which will place it in direct competition with the likes of Oracle and SAP (Apotheker's former company). In the meantime, customers seem more interested than ever in the TouchPad-in its dying moments, the cheapest tablet on the market.