TouchPad death burns early adopters HP TouchPad hands-onTouchPad: the appsDoes the tablet world need another hero?
Harvey Norman sold out of its 6000 units of the newly discontinued TouchPad tablet within an hour of HP announcing a fire sale that saw its price slashed to $99.
Considering the device first went on sale last Monday from $499 it has become one of the most short-lived and heavily discounted technology products in history.
Harvey Norman stores across the country were flooded this afternoon with gadget lovers looking for a bargain, tipped off through Twitter. The retailer has confirmed that within an hour of the sale being announced most stores had sold out.
Some Australians have already begun listing their bargain TouchPads on eBay at inflated prices. Many on social media have pointed out the irony that HP was only able to move its stock of TouchPads after killing the product.
A spokesman for the computer division at Harvey Norman in Broadway, Sydney, said the store had 150-200 people an hour coming in looking for TouchPads. He said the store had three staff who were preparing for a quiet Monday but instead were "swamped".
"We had basically a line up from the register to basically the back of the store ... it was an event," the spokesman said.
HP confirmed earlier this afternoon that, while stocks last, the 16GB and 32GB versions would be sold through Harvey Norman and HP's online store for $99 and $149, respectively.
The move comes after HP surprised the tech world last week by announcing a dramatic reshuffling that would see its PC division spun off and its tablet and smartphone products discontinued.
General manager of Harvey Norman's national computer division Ben McIntosh said he had never seen such a dramatic drop in the price of a new product in his 16 years with the company, describing it as a freakish event in the IT industry.
"This was not expected at all," he said, adding 6000 units were sold by Harvey Norman in under an hour.
"To their credit, HP has done a very good job at reacting very quickly to the situation in the past week. But, we did not expect it to go as viral as it did."
Even before the TouchPad went on sale on August 15, HP had already dropped the prices by $100 to $499 and $599, respectively.
Following HP's announcement that the device was being discontinued, exclusive retail partner Harvey Norman decided to pull the product from its shelves and offer all buyers refunds amid complaints that the early adopters would be stuck with a useless product that app developers would quickly abandon.
Reviewers panned the device, which faces tough competition from the iPad and several Google Android-based rivals.
Some liked the webOS software but hated the hardware. Indeed, HP's own webOS team reportedly hacked an iPad 2 to run webOS and found it ran twice as fast on Apple's offering than the TouchPad.
Most reviewers said they could see no reason to buy the TouchPad over its competitors given that it is physically bulkier than an iPad and the nascent webOS platform has hardly any support from app developers.
That sentiment has quickly changed now that the price has been slashed so heavily. In the US, where prices were dropped earlier, the TouchPad has virtually sold out in a weekend rush the company described as “overwhelming”.
HP clarified today that while it had made the decision not to continue developing webOS devices, it was “fully committed” to the ongoing support and service of customers who had purchased them.
“We also remain committed to the webOS platform and our goal is to ensure the platform's evolution as a robust operating system for an increasingly mobile and connected world,” HP said.
“Feedback from our customers and developers has been positive and we intend to enhance the platform as we explore options for webOS in today's marketplace.”
Microsoft has already made a play for webOS developers, promising them free phones, development tools and training in return for them switching allegiances to Windows Phone 7.
Dell founder Michael Dell also couldn't resist a jab, tweeting on the HP reorganisation: "They are calling it a separation but it feels like a divorce. If HP spins off their PC business .... maybe they will call it Compaq?"
It's not just the TouchPad that has been discounted. APC Magazine spotted some heavy discounting on HP laptops, desktops and monitors as well.
- with Lucy Rickard
Reporters on Twitter: @ashermoses and @bengrubb