It's not every day that a major tech company declares an end to a product only to bring it back after liquidation, but that's exactly what HP appears to be doing with the TouchPad, at least on a short-term basis.
The TouchPad had supposedly went the way of the dinosaur, as HP announced earlier this month that it would be discontinuing all webOS devices, including the TouchPad and smartphones based on the platform. As part of that announcement, HP reduced the price of the TouchPad to $99 for a 16 GB model and $149 for a 32 GB model.
The tablets sold like hotcakes at the reduced prices, although at a significant loss to the company. The 32 GB version of the TouchPad carries a $318 Bill of Materials (BOM), meaning that for every one HP sells at $149, the company takes a hit of $169. And yet, HP appears to be readying yet another wave of the TouchPad at those same prices.
An email sent out yesterday to customers that had ordered but not received a TouchPad sounded particularly optimistic that the company would be making more of the devices available in the very near future.
"While we do not yet have specific details, we know it will be at least a few weeks before we have a limited quantity available again," stated the email. "We will keep you informed as we have more specifics that we can communicate."
The company added some clarity to that email in a blog post yesterday. "We don't know exactly when these units will be available or how many we'll get, and we can't promise we'll have enough for everyone. We do know that it will be at least a few weeks before you can purchase."
While selling TouchPads at such a loss may not do anything for revenue, it certainly could build a base of webOS users that might be attractive to developers and in turn a possible buyer for the platform. That's assuming that those tablets remain webOS platforms.
A website called hacknmod.com is currently offering a $2,225 "bounty" for the first person to come up with a jailbroken HP TouchPad running any version of Android. A couple of the devices running Google's mobile platform have been seen on eBay recently, but as of this writing, a stable hack does not appear to have been achieved.
Multiple news outlets have reported recently that Samsung might possibly be interested in webOS. HP acquired the mobile platform when it purchased Palm for $1.2 billion back in April of 2010.