Hewlett-Packard's long-awaited WebOS TouchPad appears to have fizzled at Best Buy on Fourth of July Weekend.
Walt Mossberg and David Pogue gave the HP TouchPad the kiss of death. Ex-Engadgeteer Joshua Topolsky wrote his usual exhaustive 2000+ worder, extremely critical and yet hopeful that the WebOS DNA might some day prove to be an asset.
TechRepublic's Jason Hiner has been a bit kinder, but he's always been a nice guy, and like myself, he's an actual technologist, and is willing to cut the company some slack and identify where the prime differentiators are.
I think I called it well over a week ago, but I really wanted to see how the TouchPad was going to perform at my local retail stores before making any kind of final judgement. So today on my lunch break I headed over to Best Buy over at Garden State Plaza, one of the busiest shopping malls and retail complexes in the entire country.
Granted, the 4th of July weekend probably isn't the smartest time to launch a new tablet. In New Jersey, a lot of people scooted out early and went down to the shore last night. But Garden State Plaza still was filled with plenty of cars at 11:30AM today.
I parked my car outside of Best Buy. No lines out the door, no police attempting to keep order. I walked in.
I glanced at the security guard. "Where is the HP display, you know, for the tablet?"
"Oh... all the computer stuff is upstairs." He motioned me to take the escalator. I took the ride to the top.
I walked over to who appeared to be the retail sales manager. "So where's the TouchPad?"
"You know, the HP Tablet. The one that goes on sale today."
"I don't think we carry that here."
"You're supposed to be their primary retail launch partner, how could you not have them?"
"Well, all the HP and tablet stuff is over there... (pointing) it might be on display, if you get the SKU, just get one of the stock boys to get one out of the cage."
I walked over to the tablet area, where there was a prominent display for the iPad and various Android tablets, including the Acer Iconia, the ASUS Transformer and the Motorola XOOM. Off to the side, on an empty white formica table was the HP TouchPad.
The article artwork at the top of this page says it all. Nobody was huddled around it. Nobody was playing with it. There were no lines of people asking to buy one. There was one other gentleman who came to buy an ASUS Transformer who asked me a few questions about it while I fondled it and took photos of the store.
"So, I see you look interested in the TouchPad. But you're going to buy the Transformer?"
"It costs $100 more than I am willing to spend. If I'm going to get one of those, I might as well buy an iPad."
I motioned over to the stockboy and pointed at the SKU for the TouchPad. "Can you get me one of these out of the cage?"
"Sure... you want the 16GB or the 32GB? We've got about sixteen units in stock if you want to buy more of them."
"16GB, thanks. Do you have any accessories, like the Touchstone or the cases? Or the keyboard?"
"Nope. I can check the Fashion Center store though. (calls other store on phone, asks for the electronics department, waits on hold for about 30 seconds) No, no accessories. The other store has about another 20 of these. Here's your tablet, I hope you like it, it seems pretty cool." He hands me the box.
"I was kind of expecting HP to have a better display, with demos and stuff. Maybe a customer rep to show it off."
"Yeah, well, HP came over to Garden State Plaza earlier in the week for an event when the Transformers movie came out as sort of a double promotion. But they haven't been here since. I heard they may have given the guys some training at the other store."
"How many of these have you sold today?"
"You're the first."
I handed the cashier my AMEX, paid, and walked out.
Did you buy your HP TouchPad today? How was your retail experience? Talk Back and Let Me Know.
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