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

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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.


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  • 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.