Holy moly, the tech world has been just littered with bargain basement technology recently. A mere three weeks after Logitech cut the price of the Google TV-running Revue down to $99 so that yours truly could purchase one, HP did the same with their TouchPad tablet. The TouchPad was HP’s first entry into the tablet world to compete with the iPad and Android tablets. It’s based on a newly developed version of the WebOS, which HP acquired when it purchased Palm a little over a year ago. The TouchPad was supposed to be the best of both worlds – the user experience of the iOS with the flexibility of Andriod?
So what happened? Well two things, actually. First, the CEO that bought Palm got fired. The replacement CEO didn’t really care about the tablet market (or the PC market either, in fact). Second, the TouchPad was released before it was ready. The hardware was nice and the platform had potential, but the software was incomplete and slow. A brand new TouchPad is slower than an original (1.5 year old) iPad. And it cost $100 more! Reviews of the device were terrible and news broke last week that Best Buy was furious at HP because they only sold 10% of their stock of TouchPads. A couple days later and after only six weeks on the market, HP announced that they were canceling the TouchPad as well as their unreleased WebOS phones. In order to clear inventory, HP slashed the price of the 16 GB TouchPad to $99 and the 32 GB model to $149. This is when I became interested.
Before we move on, let me make something clear, the TouchPad is a ‘dead’ piece of technology. HP will no longer release updates for it and software developers will probably start to abandon it. Any bugs that it has today it will have forever. Web developers won’t test for it and its browser will never be updated, so day by day, site by site, the TouchPad will become a less useful web browsing device. However, the hacking/homebrew community will keep it going for a long time. There may not be any official updates to the stock web browser, the OS, or the Facebook app, but there will still be software. For a hundred bucks it’s worth it, even without the homebrew community. It makes a great video player, light web browser, email client, digital photo frame, and music player (it actually has really good speakers). In addition, I’m a nerd and similar to the Google TV I’ve always wanted to play with the Web OS.
The price drops started happening on Friday night in Canada and spread to the US on Saturday. I had to be at work at 5 AM for a software implementation so I decided that I’d casually head over to Best Buy after I was done and pick one up, maybe even two. I told some of my coworkers and they were interested so we formed this sort of pack that was going to get them. We found out that Wal Mart and Staples opened before Best Buy and decided to hit those first. I really didn’t expect that there’d be much demand for a tablet that barely anybody knew about, so I thought of Staples as my backup, never expecting to have to hit Best Buy.
Three hours and no TouchPad later, I arrived at home, still in shock after what just happened. We had hit Wal Mart and they had TouchPads, but they wouldn’t offer them for the discounted price unless we ordered online to pick up at the store, which took 45 minutes to process. We hit the other Wal Mart, which was out of stock, before we waited in line for Staples to open. Once we got inside we spent 15 minutes trying to convince the clueless guy at the counter to price match Wal Mart. Little did we know that a lady was already trying to buy the only three TouchPads that they had in stock. We left. Rumor had it that she paid the full price ($1500 total) for all of them hoping to get a price adjustment later.
We went Best Buy to wait in line for an hour before it opened. How embarrassing. I’ve never waited in a line for a store to open and I felt like a dweeb. Luckily after 45 minutes of watching Best Buy employees walk in and out, a friendly manager came over to tell us and the other 15 people in line that there would be no TouchPads – they had just shipped their entire stock back to HP and would not be selling them. It was time to go home. I checked my local Target and Staples to no avail. My Staples had some in stock, but not for the discount.
I went home to regroup and do some research. I was lucky to find a thread on SlickDeals that tracked all of the retail outlets that were selling it. That’s where I found my TouchPad at Office Max. I had to spend a little extra and get the 32 GB model, but it was worth it. I’m hoping that it ships on Monday.
For an unsupported device, the HP TouchPad is selling pretty well right now. For the price it’s a steal. There is a pretty active homebrew community that even found a way to fix some of the major performance issues. All in all I think it will be a good tablet. And another device to my land of dying gadgets. I’ll follow up with a full review once I get it.