HP TouchPad returns with up to 200,000 new $99 tablets

The HP TouchPad reunion tour is imminent. The company has ordered the production of between 100,000 and 200,000 HP TouchPad units, according to one source.

The HP TouchPad is coming back! Sort of. Here, a customer at a store in NYC uses the TouchPad to look at an advertisement for the Apple iPad.

These are strange days for the HP TouchPad, and the people who love it – or at least learned to love it after the $99 fire sale. In mid-August, under tremendous market pressure, HP announced it would stop producing all webOS devices, including the TouchPad, which had debuted only seven weeks earlier. (Cue the elegies for the HP TouchPad.) And then, late last month, HP said it was dropping the price of the TouchPad to a bargain-basement-low 99 bucks, and predictably, buyers flooded local stores.

$99, after all, is pretty dang cheap for a tablet computer as full-featured as the TouchPad. (The device originally retailed at $500 for a basic model.) Now comes news that HP has ordered the production of between 100,000 and 200,000 new TouchPads, mostly as a way to clear out manufacturers' inventories. Which makes sense: As we've noted in the past, the demand is certainly there.

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"We suspect HP went back to the ledgers and figured it’d cost less to finish building what they contracted for and sell it at a loss than to deal with the contract termination fees and ill will that would come from sticking their suppliers with piles of custom TouchPad parts," Derek Kessler writes at precentral.net, a tech site that focuses on webOS news.

It's also worth noting that the flood of new TouchPads could have implications for the tablet market at large. To wit: A $99 tablet, kitted out with a next-generation OS, presumably poses major problems to competitors such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab or the Motorola Xoom. Why fork over $500 for one of those iPad competitors, when you could fork over $100 for this iPad competitor?

And despite the fact that HP will stop producing new webOS gadgets, and that web OS customer support may go the way of the Dodo, consumers have flocked to the TouchPad in droves. HP sold out of its inventory of the tablet almost immediately; Amazon unloaded all its 16 GB TouchPad models in 25 minutes, and its 32 GB model in 4 minutes. Any guess how quickly the next batch of TouchPads will go?

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