HP Touchpad tablet plummets to $99, sells like gangbusters

HP Touchpad: $99 fire-sale price ignites huge demand for the webOS tablet. Get 'em while you can.

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    HP Touchpad + $99 price tag = too good for many shoppers to pass up. The discounted tablet sold like hotcakes this weekend.
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The HP Touchpad found its sweet spot: $99.

Hewlett-Packard threw in the towel last week, announcing it would discontinue the HP Touchpad tablet after only seven weeks on that market. Ouch. Conventional wisdom after the news said, "stay away from the TouchPad!" App developers will ignore it. HP will likely stop supporting it. And at $400 or $500, the Touchpad is a tough sell compared to the iPad and Android tablets. Unless you're a collector of tech curiosities, just walk away.

Apparently, HP heard the crowd and acted fast. Rather than bury tablets in the desert Atari ET style, HP announced a fire sale over the weekend. The company's website listed the 16 GB model at $100 and the 32 GB version at $150. The plan worked.

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"Due to the significant price reduction, we experienced overwhelming demand for the product and are temporarily out of inventory," said HP's website Monday morning. "Please enter your email address below to be notified as soon as we have them back in stock."

Retailers followed suit, eager to empty their own warehouses before everyone forgets about the Touchpad. According to slickdeals.net, the deal hunters were fast and furious.

Amazon's Lightning Deal sold out of 16 GB models in 25 minutes. The 32 GB went in 4 minutes.

Fry's: Sold out. J&R: Sold out. MicroCenter: Sold out. Office Max: Sold Out. Radio Shack: Sold out. Sam's Club: Sold out. Target: Sold out.

Wal-Mart is sold out online, but some locations still allow for in-store pickup (for now, at least.)

So, will this swell of interest revive the HP tablet? Unlikely. The manufacturing experts at iSuppli estimated that the parts inside a Touchpad cost $306. Tack on the cost of designing, programming, shipping, supporting, and hiring Russell Brand to do the marketing. This sudden sale tried to stop a bad problem from getting worse, not to turn a crummy situation into a good one.

But here's the better question: Will this swell of interest revive webOS? Remember that moments before HP discontinued the Touchpad and all other webOS devices, Stephen DeWitt, HP's head of webOS, said that the company was very interested in licensing the operating system for cars and kitchen appliances.

"We're looking at expanding the base and bringing to the webOS community an ecosystem that inspires developers out there," Mr. DeWitt told the Wall Street Journal in an August 16 article. (HP axed the Touchpad on August 18.)

It's possible that DeWitt was simply out of the loop, that he didn't know HP planned to slash his budget dramatically the very same week that he spoke to the Journal. It's also possible that HP really does plan to keep webOS alive, but living on other people's hardware. This weekend proved that webOS can be popular, if priced appropriately.

You can follow Chris on Twitter @venturenaut and sign up for the Monitor's weekly BizTech newsletter, which ships every Wednesday.

RELATED: 10 most intriguing tablets of 2011

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