Buyers Snatch Up HP TouchPad in Fire Sale

Buyers swarmed stores to grab HP’s TouchPad at discounted prices in a fire sale that may seriously damage the company’s reputation.

Major retailers like Best Buy are practically giving the tablet away at $100 for the 16-gigabyte version and $150 for its 32-gigabyte counterpart. The price reduction follows HP’s decision to pull support for the newly released tablet.

While many customers expressed excitement over this promotion, they may face problems finding a TouchPad to buy, as HP’s social media manager Bryn Corcoran today tweeted about dwindling supplies.

“Best Buy does not have them in stock any longer either. They keep sending ppl to HP, but we’re out too. More coming,” according to Corcoran’s tweet.

Even those who manage to nab TouchPads at dirt-cheap prices may encounter difficulties. Best Buy strictly mandates one tablet per person and stresses all sales are final, though HP offers a one-year manufacturer’s warranty.

Those most unhappy with HP, however, are likely customers who bought TouchPads at $400 to $600 price after its July launch. Best Buy is offering refunds to folks who pre-ordered the tablets from June 19, but people who purchased the tablets from smaller electronics stores may not be so lucky.

Beyond dealing with pricing turmoil, no TouchPad owner can ignore HP’s decision last Friday to discontinue support for all WebOS-based mobile devices. Now that HP is ditching the system, which only offered 300-some TouchPad apps to begin with, customers will likely not see future software updates, support or an increase in apps.

Businesses may also be displeased with HP’s abandonment of the OS. Best Buy, for example, offers in-store services with most purchases and may see many disgruntled customers demand help once HP withdraws support for the TouchPad. This coming storm, besides the fact that Best Buy is losing money in the fire sale, may bode ill for HP’s future reputation.

By scrapping its mobile business, and perhaps hurting customers and businesses in the process, HP risks damaging its hard-earned reputation. The company made its fortunes in PCs, but as desktops give way to tablets and smartphones, HP has found it hard to keep apace.

Now that it plans to scrap personal-PC production and enter the business sector, HP will have to concentrate on that plan more carefully than it did in the TouchPad’s case. CEO Leo Apotheker is now planning to restructure the company, including purchasing a software company called Autonomy for $10.3 billion, in order to spur business growth. But soon HP may not be able to afford such expenditures if its profits keep slipping.

The business market can be highly profitable, and HP’s new focus on that sector may shore it up for the time being. But HP’s failed attempt to innovate in the mobile market may foreshadow its eventual downslide, as the technology industry demands companies adapt or die and consumers increasingly turn to mobile devices.

This post originally appeared at Mobiledia.