HP TouchPad To Be Updated, But What's Next? - InformationWeek

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Commentary
8/30/2011
10:03 AM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman
Commentary
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HP TouchPad To Be Updated, But What's Next?

HP preps a software update and new apps after a surge of interest in the $99 tablet. Will HP resurrect it in some way?

HP announced the TouchPad on February 9 at a huge WebOS event in San Francisco. After delays, the TouchPad went on sale July 1 for $499 or $599, depending on the storage option. HP had cut the price of the TouchPad by $100 by August 1. On August 18, HP announced that it was killing off its WebOS phone and tablet business entirely, and planning to sell its PC business. The news shook the technology world.

HP then decided to clear out its existing inventory of the TouchPad and dropped the price to a mere $99. The result? Huge surge in demand and sell-outs at electronics stores. The explosion in demand has perhaps caused HP to change its mind regarding the TouchPad.

Speaking in an interview with Reuters, Todd Bradley, HP's personal systems group VP, indicated that the company might resurrect the TouchPad rather than scrap it. "Tablet computing is a segment of the market that's relevant, absolutely," Bradley said.

While Bradley didn't announce with authority that the TouchPad will live on, the company has said that more shipments are on the way to satisfy the current level of interest. Perhaps the bigger question is, if HP does keep the TouchPad alive, will it continue to charge only $99 for it? Surely the $99 price point alone is what has generated this explosion in demand for a device that otherwise entered the market as a dud. Given the cost to manufacture the TouchPad, HP would take a huge hit if it sold the tablet at the $99.

Separately, HP also indicated that a significant software update is being prepared for the TouchPad.

"We expect that HP TouchPad owners can look forward to an over-the-air update that will enhance the platform and add functionality and a growing applications catalog," an HP spokesperson told Cnet. The spokesperson didn't say exactly what new features the TouchPad might gain, but the company had said last week that the OS itself is not dead, and WebOS devices users can continue to expect system updates and enhancements.

"HP is fully committed to the ongoing support and service of customers who purchased WebOS devices ... We plan to continue to investigate the best ways to leverage WebOS software and grow the applications," said the spokesperson.

In addition to offering the Touchpad for the inventory-clearing price of $99, HP is also packaging together "6-packs" of applications for the TouchPad. The number of TouchPads flying off shelves and the free app offering means that WebOS apps are also flying off the virtual shelves. HP saw "huge spikes in activations and between 3-5X downloads of apps," since the $99 fire sale took off.

Bottom line, it appears that any tablet might sell like hotcakes for $99. It's a shame the TouchPad, which is actually a decent device, has only found success in its failure.

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