SmartMoney Blogs

Pay Dirt
A daily look at what we buy, how we spend, and the companies that do right - and wrong - by their customers.

At 75% Off, the H-P TouchPad is No Bargain

Getty Images

A 75%-off sale is usually both a lure and warning: get cheap now what nobody wanted to pick up at full price.

Shoppers enticed by the fire sales on the $99 H-P TouchPad would do well to keep that in mind, some experts say. H-P recently discontinued the once $399-plus tablet, marking down the remaining inventory to as low as $99. Now the company says it plans to make one last small production run, to be sold this fall for an as-yet-unannounced price.

As today’s Wall Street Journal points out, the decision is odd from a business perspective: It costs H-P $306 to make one 16GB tablet, so selling it for $99 results in a $207 loss. (Analysts say H-P is likely just using the last of its pre-purchased parts.) But the real head-scratcher is why consumers are so eager to now buy a tablet that was roundly reviewed as disappointing for its heft, so-so operating system and lack of apps, says Andrew Eisner, director of content for “Unless you have $99 burning a hole in your pocket, you might want to wait,” he says.

After all, the tablet market is nothing if not competitive. The iPad 3 could be coming our way as soon as October, and Amazon is months away from releasing two tablets expected to cost less than $300, Eisner says. Tablet-makers are also likely to offer more incentives during the busy holiday shopping season, says Louis Ramirez, a senior feature writer for sale site Two days after H-P discontinued the TouchPad, for example, sales popped up on Samsung’s Galaxy tablet, dropping the price from $340 to as low as $280. Deals will be at their best during the week of Black Friday, he predicts.

Material costs make it unlikely that other tablet manufacturers can go much below the $199 price point right now, says Chris Connery, vice president of PC and IT displays for market researcher DisplaySearch. Yes, that’s twice the price of the TouchPad, but those tablets also come with operating systems that have support and updates going forward; the TouchPad has that for now, but H-P has discussed spinning off or selling WebOS, which makes the future of that support uncertain, he says. That also means there’s no incentive for developers to come up with apps that work on the tablet.

Still, the $99 H-P TouchPad provides the best opportunity for consumers who don’t want much more than a cheap way to surf the Internet from their couch, Eisner says. “It might make a nice collector’s item,” he says.

Clarification: A previous version of this story was unclear about H-P’s commitment to support the TouchPad and WebOS.


We welcome thoughtful comments from readers. Please comply with our guidelines. Our blogs do not require the use of your real name.

Comments (5 of 88)

View all Comments »
    • You’re a bit off on the comparison to the Kindle. There’s no way the iPad is as good as the Kindle. Reading on an LCD balckit screen is nowhere near as comfortable as reading eInk. The Kindle will also blow the iPad away on several other eReader points. Battery life for one, 10 hours vs. several weeks on the Kindle. Weight and comfort are also MAJOR factors. In fact any eInk reader will beat the iPad. But beside that the iPad is very cool.

    • over the past 11 months. Let me ceommnce by saying this upfront, I don’t work for Apple, I don’t own Apple Stock, and whether you buy an iPad, Xoom, a laptop or a pad of paper and pencil I don’t get anything for writing this. I’m not an Apple fanboy although I can give credit everywhere credit is due and lately Apple has deserved a lot of credit for some of their products. Physical Characteristics The iPad 2 is absurdly thin. More importantly than it’s thinness is its tapered edge which feels more natural in your hand. One of the largest complaints about the original iPad was it really wasn’t tremendously comfortable to hold for long periods at a time. For a tablet device designed to be held, that’s a pretty huge deal. Apple really has done an incredible job of cramming everything into an even smaller space than before and the difference is really noticeable when you’re holding the device. In addition to the tapered edge, Apple managed to reduce the overall weight of the iPad 2. That might not seem like a huge deal to most, especially when you consider the weight difference isn’t tremendous when you’re already under 2 pounds, but I spend a excellent part of my day holding the iPad in my hands and the weight difference is surprising by the end of the day. The first generation isn’t gray by any means, but the iPad 2 outshines it. New and Improved Apple doubled the RAM in the iPad 2 from 256MB to 512MB. What does that mean? For most casual users, doubtless not a whole lot. There is a performance bump that everyone will see the effects of in things like loading times for webpages that are open in the background, but 256MB was sufficient for most day after day use and games. If you’re plotting to use your device for some of the more graphically intense games the iPad 2 does offer a better method of graphics processing that’ll help deliver quicker images with fewer jerky movements. If you’re just playing Fuming birds and reading e-mail you’re not going to know the difference. The screen is the same for all real purposes. It is technically a new part in that it isn’t identical to the ancient, it’s a bit thinner and more efficient, but it’s the same resolution. The Glass is thinner though, and this amounts to a honest bit of the weight loss from one generation to the next. In playing with the device it seems surprising but despite feeling lighter it really feels more sturdy in your hands. I still wouldn’t suggest dropping it, but if it were to fall the iPad 2 certainly feels like it might stand a better chance to carry on. Try not to drop it though. The addition of 2 cameras was expected. Some were a bit surprised to see the first generation released lacking the cameras. Whether it was for a price point consideration, or a means to get people to upgrade, Apple held off until iPad 2. The cameras do a reasonable job, but they’re not going to replace a dedicated digital camera, or really even the camera on your phone for most still images. The cameras do a substantially better job with video, and FaceTime is doubtless one of the best reasons to get the iPad 2 over the original iPad. For those who might not be familiar, FaceTime is Apple’s face to face conferencing system, kind of like Skype, or if you’d rather, kind of like the Jetson’s TV/Phone. With the push of a button you can be having a face to face chat with a loved one just about anywhere in the world (provided they’re on a wireless network at the time). FaceTime doesn’t work over 3G natively (it can be used over a wifi connection made by a 3G device but) so you’re not going to be able to use it in your car anytime soon. This is doubtless a excellent thing though. It is incredibly simple to use and if you know other people with an iPad 2, iPhone 4, or Mac it’s a lot of fun. Smart Covers aren’t really smart but they’re really very useful. Not only do they provide a stylistic enhancement of the device, but they serve a practical and functional purpose of doubling as a screen protector and stand in 2 configurations. You can find them in a variety of insignia and from third market suppliers, and it’s a safe bet that more will be out soon to capitalize on the magnetic sensors in the iPad 2. It’s unfortunate that this same feature can’t somehow be retrofitted to the iPad 1, I wouldn’t have thought a case would be a compelling reason to consider a product over it’s competitor, but these covers are really so useful it’s hard to be with you why they’ve not been there since the beginning. Multitasking Support One of

    • Ridiculous article one more about the touchpad. I have both Ipad 2 and HP Touchpad well believe it or not I do like my touchpad better. IOS interface is odd and really old school nothing compete in my opinion with the webOS interface, certainly not Android. Apps??? Well I’m one of these people who could care less about Apps. I have probably over 60 apps installed on the iPad use 2 on a daily basis. When it comes to jailbreaking, overclocking your cpu, and even creating your own patch system IOS is far, far behind… Oh yeah it does Flash too. Nobody will take the idea off my head that the only reason Flash was not implemented was only to make money with the App Store concept. Implement Flash on IOS and 80% of these apps can be run as a flash app and yes it gets then out of control of Apple. They are a pathetic company in a lot of ways regardless how shiny and pretty their products are….

    • Wow..never read such bogus bias report. Kelli should do more research before stating that $99 is no bargain. Obvious this is no Ipad but for $99 there is no competition with such a powerful little pad. There is a growing hackers world providing software updates and even running android apps. Unless you want Ipad apps…you’re comparing apples vs oranges but to say that the pad is not powerful is very ignorant of you. It’s more powerful than most people think, you just need to do your research. $99 not a bargain? You even state that new pads will hover around $300 but for what it does $99 in my opinion is a bargain and there are more support in the hackers’ world.

    • “It costs H-P $306 . . . .”

      I wouldn’t believe that for a heartbeat.

About Pay Dirt

  • Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to or tweet @SMPayDirt.