Earlier this month, much to the chagrin of WebOS fans everywhere, HP announced it would kill its critically acclaimed TouchPad tablet. Shortly after the announcement, the company lowered the price of the tablet to $99 in an attempt to liquidate the supply. It was an amazing success. Within days, the TouchPad was sold out.
Now, HP has announced it's going to continue to produce TouchPads through October. Why? The leading theory is they have a contractual obligation with the manufacturer and it would be cheaper to make and sell the tablets required to meet the contract than it would be to buy out of the contract. Makes sense, but bare with me as I don my tinfoil hat and offer up an alternative theory...
HP never planned to kill off the TouchPad. Shortly after the launch, HP execs realized the TouchPad was not catching on as they had hoped it would. With few people buying the new device, there was little incentive for software developers to make apps for HP's WebOS operating system. Without a large library of apps, consumers weren't interested in buying the tablet when they could go out and buy an iPad or an Android tablet, each with an extensive app catalogue. This kind of developer/consumer vicious circle has led to the death of plenty of gadgets. The future looked bleak for HP's little-tablet-that-could.
HP hasn't released sales figures for the TouchPad yet. But after the price drop, Best Buy sold out its stock of 270,000 tablets in one weekend. With this many TouchPads out there, there is now a reason for software developers to start making apps for the tablet. If they get a healthy catalogue of apps, it's going to increase consumer demand for the TouchPad hardware. If there's consumer demand, HP can bring the price back up to a level that is profitable for the company. Basically, by killing and liquidating the TouchPad, HP created the infrastructure that the tablet needed to survive.
Ok... time to take off the tinfoil hat. I don't really believe that HP killed off the TouchPad as a huge marketing stunt. I also don't think it will revive the TouchPad, despite having a larger customer base now. And I don't think that software developers will ever truly embrace the TouchPad like they did with the Apple and Google devices. It is a great stunt though, and it would be great to see a company actually try a stunt like this in earnest.
I would love to see the TouchPad rise from its own ashes and there are now at least another 270,000 people out there who agree with me. HP, if you happen to read this, consider giving the TouchPad another try. There are people out there who believe in it. Thanks to its untimely demise, it now could have a new life.
Stuart Varney joined FOX Business Network (FBN) as an anchor in 2007 and is the host of "Varney & Co." (9-11 AM/ET) on weekdays. Click here for more information about Stuart Varney.