HP discontinues production of TouchPad tablet after just seven weeks

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In the world of handheld electronic tablets, companies like Apple and Google still have a firm hold on the market.

Unfortunately for the longtime computer technology company Hewlett-Packard, it’s finding that lesson out the hard way.

At the beginning of July, HP entered the tablet market for the first time with the HP TouchPad, which features the webOS operating system and hit the store shelves with a price tag of $499.

Now, just seven weeks later, HP has announced it will discontinue production of the unpopular tablet as well as all other webOS-featuring products including its line of smart phones.

The announcement of the discontinuation of the HP TouchPad doesn’t come as much of a surprise considering what it offers compared to the Apple and Google tablets, particularly in the department of mobile applications.  The Apple iPad offers some 500,000 apps and the Google Android tablet has just over 200,000, while the HP TouchPad and its webOS system offer a mere 8,000.

Tack on the fact that the HP TouchPad cost just as much as each of the competitors products and it’s easy to see why sales were so lackluster.  Why would anyone choose to buy an HP product with inferior specs when they could have an Apple or Google tablet for the same price?

Rather, what used to be the same price.

In an attempt to shed the unsuccessful tablets, HP announced a fire sale that started last Friday, lowering tablet prices to a measly $99 for the 16 GB model and $150 for the 32 GB version.

It’s a strategy that, for now, appears to be working.

As of this morning, nearly every retailer that previously carried the HP Touchpad both online and in-store, including Best Buy, Target, Walmart and the HP Store, was sold out, suddenly leaving customers scrambling for the tablet and unable to find one.

“Due to the significant price reduction, we experienced overwhelming demand for the product and are temporarily out of inventory,” HP’s official website read this morning.  “Please enter your email address to be notified as soon as we have them back in stock.”

When and where more HP TouchPads will be available has yet to be determined, but considering the announcement of discontinued production, it’s not likely that any major retailers will be anxious to restock their shelves any time soon.

Despite the fact that HP will not continue to develop and support the webOS system, essentially rendering the TouchPad tablet useless for new features, consumers still obviously feel the need to take advantage of the extreme bargain.  But for how much longer can the life of the HP TouchPad be extended due to the sudden swell of interest?

Probably not much at all considering the fact that production costs of the tablet are estimated to be about $300.  Continuing to sell them at a $200 loss is not a viable option.

In fact, for a company that has struggled to stay at the forefront in the ever-growing market of computer hardware, HP continuing to develop PCs in general appears to not be a profitable alternative either.

Despite leading the United States in personal computer sales so far this year, last week HP announced that it could soon be exiting the PC hardware business altogether, opting to focus more on the software services division of their company instead, a similar route taken by computer pioneer IBM back in 2005.

With all the uncertainty surrounding the computer company at the moment, it’s not much of a surprise that HP stock fell nearly 20 percent on Wall Street Monday.

One thing you can be certain of?  If you want to buy a discounted HP TouchPad, you could be waiting awhile.

If you want to buy a relevant HP TouchPad? You could be waiting forever.

photo courtesy of Tom Raftery via flickr

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