Discontinued tablet will return for “limited” run in North America, no plans for more UK stock
Embattled HP has announced it will resurrect its TouchPad tablet after its price drop created a huge surge in demand and emptied stocks across Europe and the US.
In a shock announcement two weeks ago, HP said it would discontinue its TouchPad tablet and other webOS-enabled hardware to focus on higher margin software and services.
A subsequent price drop on remain stocks of TouchPad devices – down to £115 for the 32GB version and £89 for the 16GB model – created a huge amount of interest and suppliers ran dry within hours.
Once supplies were gone most assumed that was that; the end of a much-hyped and indeed well reviewed device that had been on sale for just under 50 days. But now HP’s Mark Budgell has announced the TouchPad will return, for a limited time.
"Since we announced the price drop, the number of inquiries about the product and the speed at which it disappeared from inventory has been stunning. I think it’s safe to say we were pleasantly surprised by the response," he wrote on the company’s blog.
"Despite announcing an end to manufacturing webOS hardware, we have decided to produce one last run of TouchPads to meet unfulfilled demand," he added.
UPDATE: The company has confirmed to CBR in a statement that the new batch of TouchPads will be US only. "A limited quantity of TouchPads will be available in the coming weeks in North America only. In EMEA we are discontinuing the webOS hardware operations and will not offer any additional products beyond what might be currently available in selective outlets," the statement said.
Budgell was frustratingly unclear on many aspects of the new batch of TouchPads. "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," he said, adding: "We do know that it will be at least a few weeks before you can purchase.
He did confirm that HP’s Small and Medium Business team had run out of the devices and would not be getting any more, meaning this final run is aimed at the consumer market. It does seem, however, that once this batch has gone that will, finally, be it for the TouchPad.
"HP is discontinuing the development of webOS devices and is winding down device operations within our fourth fiscal quarter 2011," Budgell confirmed. He also confirmed there will be an order limit to stop people buying vast quantities of TouchPads and then selling them online.
The question of pricing was also addressed by Budgell, but he did not guarantee that it would costs the same as the rock-bottom prices that garnered so much interest. "Each retailer will manage their own policy and process regarding pricing and price matching. Please contact the local retailer of your choice to see what their current position is," was his official line.
It has been an interesting few weeks for HP. CEO Leo Apotheker stamped his software credentials all over the company when he announced a possible spin-off of its PC division, the discontinuation of its webOS hardware and a $10bn deal for UK software house Autonomy.
However the company has since looked to clear up some confusion about its future direction by denying it had definitely agreed to rid itself of the $40bn PC business.
"Let me be absolutely clear in saying that at no stage has HP said it is quitting the PC business," said Paul Hunter, HP’s head of Personal Systems Group (PSG) for the UK and Ireland.
"Three options are being investigated, and whether the company is spun off, sold or kept in the HP portfolio, the team in the UK remains committed to creating and supporting great products and services."
Hunter also said webOS, acquired as part of the $1.2bn deal for Palm, would continue to be supported. "All webOS products will be supported and HP fully intends to support the future development of the webOS platform, though again how that will be managed is still under discussion," he said.