Electronics retailer Harvey Norman has ordered its franchisees to pull thousands of webOS-powered HP TouchPads off the shelves today, after the product manufacturer said overnight that it would no longer be producing the device.
Speaking with ZDNet Australia after crisis talks with HP Australia, Harvey Norman's general manager of Computers, Ben McIntosh, said that the decision to stop selling the device was a reaction to the uncertain future of the webOS platform.
"I'm taking a very proactive view on this, rather than waiting and waiting," McIntosh told ZDNet Australia. "Because I can't be sure that webOS won't be supported ongoing, I've instructed my franchisees to take the TouchPad off the shelves. Not because HP told me to, just because we can't be sure if they're going to [be supported in future]," McIntosh added.
Harvey Norman scored an exclusive deal to retail the first Australian shipment of the HP TouchPad through its franchise network, and had taken delivery of 6000 units in the first shipment.
Harvey Norman went on to sell between 1000 and 1200 of the HP TouchPads in the four days it was available — sales performance McIntosh describes as "pretty good, considering it was a mid-week release", adding that customers who purchased the device are all being offered refunds.
"We've contacted customers who have bought it, offered them a full refund or full credit to go to another tablet," he said. McIntosh said that the customers who choose to keep their TouchPad to see if the webOS platform will be supported in future will be eligible to receive a refund until HP makes its decision on the future of webOS.
"There will be some customers who wish to keep the TouchPad; if they do, that's fine, we'll support them. No customer that's bought a TouchPad will be disadvantaged at all."
McIntosh said that Harvey Norman would continue to meet with HP Australia to decide the best course of action for the remaining TouchPad stock.
The GM said that he was disappointed at the decision to discontinue the TouchPad.
"Am I disappointed? Absolutely. I'd be disappointed if this happened to any product, [but] this has absolutely no effect on our sales results at all. The tablet category is growing very strongly," he assured.
At HP's announcement of the TouchPad in February, the company also announced two new webOS-powered phones — the Pre 2 and the Veer. McIntosh said that HP had raised the possibility of Harvey Norman carrying the mobile phones in previous negotiations. Harvey Norman told HP Australia that it needed telco support for the handsets before they could make it to stores. Now that the future of webOS is in doubt, it's unlikely that the pair will ever make it to Australia.
HP also said overnight that it would consider spinning off its PC business, and announced a review into the business unit's future. McIntosh said that Harvey Norman wouldn't be taking any action based on this announcement.
"There is no suggestion [HP will] stop their investment in the PC environment, they're looking at how the business is structured, it may be spun off, it may be sold. There are no definites there. There's a review going for 12 months there, so it is absolutely business as usual for HP PCs," the executive told ZDNet Australia.
ZDNet Australia contacted HP Australia for a comment regarding how the announcement from the US would affect the local business unit. HP Australia provided no comment. McIntosh met with executives from HP Australia earlier today, and said that the reason the local arm has no comment is because it's been left out of the loop by US counterparts.
"HP Australia actually have zero information with regards to what's going on," McIntosh revealed, adding that the local arm is aiming to get comment when regular business hours begin in the US.