HP to resuscitate the TouchPad?

 31 Aug 2011 - By Omar Yesid Mariño+

Todd Bradley, executive vice president of Hewlett-Packard’s Personal Systems Group, has stated in an interview that the TouchPad tablet, which was recently pulled out from the market, could be revived. That is to say, the company has not entirely abandoned it WebOS system and still fighting to get a strong status in the mobile market.

HP and WebOS

“Regardless of what happens, we’re the largest PC company in the world”, Bradley has pointed out. Then he emphasized the importance of the mobile segment:  “Tablet computing is a segment of the market that’s relevant, absolutely”.

According to Reuters, Bradley confirmed that the TouchPad tablet could come back; and he made this statement while he was traveling (for business) in China, trying to calm down and explain the current situation to the parts providers. So, obviously, these declarations are an official confirmation that HP is clearly looking for a second chance in the tablets segment which is dominated by the iPad and the Android tablets at this time.

Learning from the Failure?

Among the possibilities to explore in order to boost this segment at Hewlett-Packard, it’s possible that the WebOS becomes an open-source system (well, at least it could be an “open-source system” for a selected community of mobile makers in the industry). This platform has earned a sort of prestige because it is a product that has been active in the technology market since the Palm days. And the Palm was an innovative entity in the mobile market before Palm, Inc was bought by “the largest PC company”.

Recently (on August 18), HP had announced that the company was going to lay aside its WebOS operating system along with its TouchPad tablet; this product had been available only since July 1. And, when the company announced the tough decision, sellers reduced the price to $99.

But, why HP is changing its mind? Without doubt, the surprising demand from the consumers buying the remaining units of the TouchPad is a good reason, though the reduced price was obviously a powerful incentive to originate the strong sales.

“Despite announcing an end to manufacturing webOS hardware, we have decided to produce one last run of TouchPads to meet unfulfilled demand”, HP spokesman Mark Budgell wrote on a post on the official HP website. Of course, “a last run of TouchPad” doesn’t mean a full come back of the TouchPad but, if the demand continues strong, then it can be a permanent decision.

The new produced tablets would be available for sale in a few weeks and the company has not said a word about how many tablets will be produced in this “last run”. “We can’t promise we’ll have enough for everyone”, Budgell wrote.

The company will produce the tablets during its fourth fiscal quarter, which finishes on October 31.

Regarding the price, HP has not confirmed if these new units will have the same reduced price of the remaining units in the stores during the last weeks: $99 for the 16GB version and $149 for the 32GB version. Keep in mind that, initially, the 16GB version had a price of $499 (an extreme difference).

With those incredible prices, most retailers were able to sell all the units of the HP tablet. It caused a sort of online craziness and long lines of common people and offer hunters waiting at the doors of stores.

“The speed at which it disappeared from inventory has been stunning”, Budgell pointed out.

In addition, while users were happily buying the bargain gadget, an interesting online initiative emerged: Taking a customized version of Android to work with the HP TouchPad. The project is leaded by a group of developers named Cyanogenmod team.

In fact, the project goal is to create a multiboot solution where the end user can utilize different mobile operating systems to work with the TouchPad (including, of course, the WebOS).  This group of developers has a special version of Android for smartphones called CM7 and they were able to boot the HP tablet with this OS. (See the video below).

Anyway, according to some preliminary estimates by IHS iSuppli, HP could lose money with each Touchpad in this last run if the prices are not increased. For example:  The 32GB version needs a list of materials that cost around $318.  So… maybe the party is over.

HP has been criticized for changing its mind several times when making important decisions; in any event, the future of Touchpad is not an easy decision with the strong competitors out there. We’ll see what happens now.

HP TouchPad

Disclaimer - Category: Tablet