The six biggest things I learned during the HP TouchPad's fire sale weekend

The six biggest things I learned during the HP TouchPad's fire sale weekend

Summary: HP's TouchPad was supposed to die a quiet death. Then HP dropped its price and the tablet suddenly became relevant again. Here's what we have to learn.


When HP formally cut the cord on its WebOS hardware ambitions, most thought that interest in the tablet would fizzle out and die--and it should have. But then HP dropped the price of the 16GB TouchPad model to $99 and all hell broke loose. Here's what I learned in the ensuing 48 hours.

A bargain is a bargain is a bargain

A few days ago, no one wanted anything to do with the TouchPad. Consumer interest was tepid, journalist reactions were on the whole negative, and HP itself was so uncommitted that it discontinued the tablet less than seven weeks after it was released. And yet, despite those things, and in spite of WebOS's uncertain future, consumers actively sought and purchased the recently-killed hardware. Irrational? Probably. But the spike in consumer interest proved that any price drop of such magnitude is bound to generate some consumer interest - even if that interest was virtually nonexistent days before.

There's something special about $99

I don't know what goes on psychologically, but when the average person sees a $99 price tag, something in their brain clicks. Eyes light up with dollar signs and hearts beat with a certain kind of deal-hungry fervor. The same thing happened to me, which is why I found myself biking all around town in search for a device that I didn't actually want. There was a thrill, and a mostly irrational lust to save money on something I had no intention of buying hours prior.

My thinking was this: At $499, the TouchPad was an investment with a minefield of risks. At $99, it's was steal.

News of a sale travels fast

Somehow, between the time the news of the TouchPad's price drop hit and Saturday afternoon, every single available TouchPad was purchased. Staples, P.C. Richard & Son, RadioShack -- every retailer either reported the tablet "out of stock" or "unavailable." How did so many people get word of the sale so quickly? I'm still not sure.

The Apple...TouchPad?

A part of me can't help but suspect that a large part of the TouchPad's popularity this weekend derived from the device's overwhelming aesthetic similarities to the iPad. I have no evidence for this, but its not difficult to imagine a scenario wherein consumers heard the word "Pad" and immediately envisioned Apple's tablet. But that's not what they got. Not by a long shot.

The key to dethroning the iPad is in price

If anything is certain, it is this. Some have used the TouchPad's post-mortem "success" to suggest that Amazon may price its own tablet at around $99. And I'm inclined to agree. At $99, the barrier for entry is almost nonexistent, and it's sad that this is what it took for the TouchPad to achieve any modicum of success. If Amazon doesn't want its tablet efforts to follow in the footsteps of HP's, it will will study closely what happened with the TouchPad this past weekend.

The future of the TouchPad is...Android?

Probably the most significant hope that the TouchPad won't end up being a $99 paperweight is the possibility of developers landing Android on the tablet. There's already some indication that it's happening, at least in some form. Sadly, installing Android on the TouchPad misses the point, as the tablet's strength from the beginning was webOS, not its lackluster hardware. Still, getting the Android Market on the thing certainly can't hurt, and should serve as the biggest comfort to those countless bargain shoppers that just bought tickets for a ride on HP's sinking ship.

Topics: Hewlett-Packard, Amazon, BlackBerry, Operating Systems, Mobile OS, iPad, Hardware, Apple, Android, Tablets

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  • RE: The six biggest things I learned during the TouchPad's fire sale weekend

    I'll disagree with this:<br><br>" Sadly, installing Android on the TouchPad misses the point, as the tablets strength from the beginning was webOS, not its lackluster hardware"<br><br>To me, the hardware itself is lovely (I ended up buying 3 this weekend), it's the software that is simply trash. Or, rather, not so much the software, per se, but rather the complete dearth of 3rd party apps. When there is no alternative browser, and the built in browser won't even REMEMBER PASSWORDS, well, it's a dead on arrival item for me. It's worthless. The hardware is pretty enough, the screen nice enough, but without the support of developers and 3rd party people, it's worthless. <br><br>Add to the fact that HP evidently couldn't even make WebOS work correctly on their own hardware, well, it's no big shock they didn't sell. The Android team couldn't possibly do a worse job of integration.

    WebOS would only have been the "strength" if it had a large backing of supporters. It didn't. And it wasn't "omfg awesome" enough to stand alone.
    • RE: The six biggest things I learned during the TouchPad's fire sale weekend

      @HotdogIT You bought how many?! (OMG!)
    • RE: The six biggest things I learned during the TouchPad's fire sale weekend

      @HotdogS I bet it's possible to run both. Or at least an android player will be awesome.
      Sweat Studio
    • RE: The six biggest things I learned during the TouchPad's fire sale weekend


      All you Android crazies simply do not get it. WebOS is the best alternative to iOS that does not have integrated Google spyware. If you want to give your life to Google, you will live to regret it. Remember, what goes on the web, stays on the web. Maybe it will be ten years from now. But, there will be a moment when a lot of embarrassing information will be leaked from Google databases.
      • RE: The six biggest things I learned during the TouchPad's fire sale weekend

        I disagree. I use webOS on my pre. I like it. It works mostly well with a decent selection of apps (though I really don't use many apps because they're just plain silly). But it doesn't do enough integration. You can see that happening with android but webOS does not have enough followers to push it to that level. WebOs is fast becoming one of those cult status environment. It will stay alive because of this cult status but thats all its ever going to be. Android has a much much larger development following.

        As for google and embarassing info. I'm not aware of anyone having their life plastered on the web for all to see and be embarrassed so its a non issue. I'm guessing you DON'T use any kind of free email service because they all do the same as google. I assume you don't use google or any other free search engine because they all do the same thing. How many other free user account do you not use?
      • RE: The six biggest things I learned during the TouchPad's fire sale weekend

        Am I one of the few who think that the TouchPad's WEBos was a selling point? I personally have not been impressed with Android. It's similar to IOs but it misses the mark where it counts most... no-brainer, simple, no learning curve, ease of use! I spent far too much time in the Android forums to keep my devices running correctly, and that seems to be the norm, to be happy with all the time I wasted. WebOS offered a good alternative to the iPad in my opinion. Don't put Android on a device that has it beat in several ways.
      • RE: The six biggest things I learned during the TouchPad's fire sale weekend

        @jorjitop <br><br>Well if privacy is your concern many Android users would consider it a bit overblown... they simply don't care that they are compromising their privacy. <br><br>But then if you are on the web at all, no matter what OS you use, Google and every other service provider on the web is "spying" on you. Google gets a bad rap for basically doing business in exactly the same fashion that Amazon, Microsoft, AOL, Facebook, Yahoo and everyone else out there that provides supposedly free services. Google wasn't even the first to implement this business model on the Internet and the Internet isn't the only place it was being used. Banks and credit card companies and other businesses were doing the same thing without their customers knowledge until the federal government passed laws forcing them to inform you and get your consent.<br><br>Data mining is a multi billion dollar industry, it predates Google and if Google vanished it would continue on. Google however, on many occasions has shown more concern for users privacy, and have even stood up to congressional requests where Microsoft and several other search giants secretly complied with the request. Only Yahoo, to their credit, was open and forthright with their users regarding the data they turned over to the congressional committee.

        That said, if you are still scared of Android, the Ubuntu community is also working on a port to the Touchpad. Frankly, privacy paranoia aside, I'd rather have a full OS on a pad as long as the hardware can handle it.
  • RE: The six biggest things I learned during the TouchPad's fire sale weekend

    Have you USED webOS? It's terrible.
  • RE: The six biggest things I learned during the TouchPad's fire sale weekend

    I AGREE, webOS is Prehistoric, sure my Grandmother might like it's simplicity, but anyone who can download an app can see there is NOTHING in the app market making webOS pretty useless. Not to mention, NO DESKTOP! WHAT THE HELL IS THIS. Why do I have to open a new window just to start up my favorite apps? I can't wait for Android! :)
  • I think this is much better..

    if we talk about apple and hp. I will say I used this HP device for 24 hours now...guess what its really nice...yes it doesn't have fancy apps like an ipad but you know what most of the apps one doesn't need as the browser is fully flash supported so most of the stuff one can do online...about sluggish software and other issues...They offered update for webOS right when I opened the package and issues are fixed so far. Even pam is old OS but in a way its new for tablets so its obvious they don't have millions of apps...and remember apple/google/microsoft were even worse in there initial releases. Also HP never said they are discontinuing WebOS software..they just said hardware..and you know what since they sold record devices in past 3 days now they have large group of users which has to attract developers to put up their apps to reach to this million users...if hacker port android thats great too..... I have all 3 versions of iphone and I got my iphone4 standing in line without reservation on very first day!! So I am apple fan but this tablet for price of $100 i'll say F**k the ipad coz HP has fully flash enabled browser, inbuilt skype, integrated chat for all the supported messenger, mail, adobe PDF, Quick office, facebook and even angry bird HD FREE!! All this for $100 vs millions of apps with whole bunch of ristrictions for $600....sorry I'll pass on that $600.
    • RE: The six biggest things I learned during the TouchPad's fire sale weekend

      @ThePandya <br><br>Good point on the potential for the WebOS market to continue to develop. At $499 for the hardware, which reviewers have been less than charitable towards the touch pad was a tough sell. In fact, it wasn't selling. HP could have kept producing them and they could have sat on the shelves until the already sub par hardware dropped in market value forcing them to take a loss anyway or they could dump them onto the market at a loss, even though the app developer market was immature, hoping that they could generate an instant incentive for developers to develop now before Android and Ubuntu ports cut into the WebOS install base. It was a ballsy move and only time will tell if it was a good one, but it will either save WebOS or at least help HP cover their losses on what was a failed venture.

      PS. What is up with ZDnet that sometimes when I edit to correct a typo I get a message saying my submission was reported as spam?
  • RE: The six biggest things I learned during the TouchPad's fire sale weekend

    This reminds me of the Sega Dreamcast on its way out; the $99 price tag made everyone and their mother want one.
    I happen to agree with the idea that the price tag it had had made it more of an investment into something uncertain. Now that it's so cheap, people in the know, and even those who don't, suddenly want one. Is that just a correlation? Hardly.
    I've already heard some demand from people I know who went out and bought a ( or a couple of) device(s) looking to port Android on to it. Maybe that should've been the way HP went to begin with, but whatever.
    • RE: The six biggest things I learned during the TouchPad's fire sale weekend


      Much as I'm a fan of Android, HP's main problem with the Touchpad was the price/perceived performance issue. All Pads are competing with Ipad. It doesn't matter what OS you put on one, you have to have a pretty good price advantage to turn some people away from Ipad. Android tablets have better hardware options than Ipads and Ipads are still selling as fast as Apple can produce them. But a $99 tablet if it fulfills your needs makes it difficult to justify paying $375 to $750 for an Ipad too.
  • Android 2.3 on Hp Touchpad on 8/24/11

    Android is coming out for the Hp touchpad on 8/24/11...check it out...
  • RE: The six biggest things I learned during the TouchPad's fire sale weekend

    What this shows more than anything else is marketing. A company should flood the market with lost leader hardwsare(Xbox, PS2,Ps3) and make up the difference on the backend (licence/ App store). I pbought an Ipad in MAy not because it was an Ipad( I am not an apple fan) but because of the ecosystem. Build it and they will come for HP was backward. Not build the hardware and they will come, build the software, and they will come should be the Mantra of the day.
  • RE: The six biggest things I learned during the TouchPad's fire sale weekend

    I learned that retail stores don't have up-to-date inventory networks, systems, programming, or whatever you want to call it. I "bought" Touchpads from two stores only to have emails later saying my merchandise could not be shipped! Why, oh why, have a product listed on a website when the order can not be fulfilled?! I thought BestBuy and Barnes & Noble--with their advanced technological support claims--would be more. . .professional!! The huge retailers should get some help from VISA or the credit union I use.
  • RE: The six biggest things I learned during the TouchPad's fire sale weekend

    I wanted a touchpad when it first came out. On Wednesday I was looking on HSN to buy one, when I went back on Thursday, It was gone. I have no clue about the fire sale until late Saturday night. My plans were to get one onSunday, but after I got out of church they were all gone!!! I really pisses me off that people brought two and three and don't really care for them, if you do not like it please take it back in order for someone who wants it (and will enjoy it) to have one!!!! I made an account to this website just to comment. SN: why is there no login with facebook/twitter option?
  • RE: The six biggest things I learned during the TouchPad's fire sale weekend

    Well, after some hemming and hawing, I thought to nab one last night online at the discount price (no, I'm not tellling -- I have friends who might get one.) At $500, it was grossly overpriced when compared to the much more polished iPad. At its short lived $300 discount (at Staples at least), it was borderline. But for $100, it was a super bargain. This implies that a reasonably polished, just-works non-iPad tablet will likely sell well in the $200-250 range (the Nook is a good example), about where Netbooks were selling at initially. It's probably more an issue of clever, good design and smart outsourcing than anything else for at least a solid lower-end competitor to the iPads. <br><br>Given their PC manufacturing history and implied expertise, this Touchpad fiasco should really put a question mark over HP's fundamental skills: how good are they at designing and building (or "getting built") computers in the first place? Are they really no more than just another PC clone maker that happens to have a more recognizable brand name? Actually when was the last time they did anything genuinely innovative regarding computers in general?
  • Apple....Touchpad?

    I am sorry, I think that the rest of your article hit the nail on the head, but this section was a little ridiculous. Most of the people that I know got this device because we knew that with the strong development community android has, it was likely to be ported over. In fact we got word at around 9:30 friday night that a development group had taken up the mantle. Additionally, it is great hardware and even if android never makes it on there, it is a great tab for surfing the net, listening to music (beats audio! the speakers are phenomenal), writing a .doc file. Lastly even if none of this tempts you, you are already able to put Ubuntu linux on it. Apple doesn't really enter into it
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