Monday, August 22, 2011

Frenzy over $99 discontinued HP tablets

by Ian Sherr and Justin Scheck
Monday, August 22,

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Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ - News) Co.'s decision to drop the price to as low as $99 for its TouchPad tablets touched off a weekend buying rush that the company called "overwhelming."

The sudden interest came after H-P said it was discontinuing its tablet and smartphone efforts, after disappointing sales and unfavorable comparisons to Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL - News) Inc.'s iPad and iPhone. H-P cut the price of its least-expensive TouchPad to $99.99 from $499.99. The price on a greater-capacity version was reduced to $149.99 from $599.99.

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The Palo Alto, Calif., company said it is still exploring alternatives for webOS, the well-regarded software that powered the TouchPad.

H-P's decision to jettison remaining inventory at rock-bottom prices instantly became the talk of the technology press. Blog posts were quickly published with rolling updates containing lists of stores and online sites where the device was still available. Demand was so heavy that by Sunday, the website was filled with "sold out" notices in red next to such popular retailers as Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN - News), B&H Photo, Fry's Electronics, Target (NYSE: TGT - News) and Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT - News).

A saleswoman at a Best Buy (NYSE: BBY - News) Co. store in San Francisco said all the TouchPads in the Bay Area were sold out by Saturday night.

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Eager customers scouring retailers turned their attention to stores that hadn't yet dropped the TouchPad's price, and reported multiple calls with sales representatives and methods for getting the price reduced. "If you buy at full price, they will price match in 10 days to their own store if price drops," a person wrote about Barnes & Noble Inc. The retailer still was charging $407.95 for the TouchPad, of which slickdeals estimated there were 14,000 in stock.

Others consumers debated whether the device was a good value even at the lower price. "They are utterly worthless now," a person commented on a article about the sale. "Amen," responded another.

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Others disagreed, starting a Twitter campaign called "#saveWebOS" with pleas to keep the platform going and tweets from customers who had been awaiting H-P's next generation smartphones and tablets. "My dreams are dashed," said a Twitter user who called herself Cheryl. "Thanks (for nothing) @HP."

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