To meet the high demand for its discontinued, but steeply discounted $99 TouchPad tablet, HP says it will do one more production run before finally killing the project for good. Meanwhile, an alpha Android port to the WebOS-based TouchPad has been demonstrated, and a bounty for a full Android hack has increased to $2,300.
Hewlett-Packard's TouchPad apparently isn't as dead as everyone thought. When HP killed its tablet earlier this month, slashing the price by hundreds of dollars in a bid to clear inventory, a funny thing happened: Thousands of people rushed to stores and online to snatch up a high-end device for a steal.
That was a startling reversal from the anemic sales that marked the first six weeks of the TouchPad's existence — and, evidently, enough for HP to consider producing another batch.
"Despite announcing an end to manufacturing webOS hardware, we have decided to produce one last run of TouchPads to meet unfulfilled demand," Mark Budgell, an HP spokesperson, wrote in a corporate blog posting Aug. 30. "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."
The tablets are likely to be available sometime in the next few weeks, although Budgell declined to offer any information on an exact release date or pricing. HP still intends to shut down development and production of devices that run its Linux-based WebOS devices, which include the company's "Pre" smartphone line in addition to the TouchPad.
The first weekend after HP announced it would kill the TouchPad, Best Buy slashed the price of the 16GB tablet from $399 to $99, and the 32GB edition from $499 to $149. That came on top of the $100 discount instituted by HP at the beginning of August, which drove the sticker price for the TouchPad down from $499 and $599, respectively, for the 16GB and 32GB models. HP's own website also lowered the entry price to $99.
That's far below HP's estimated $318 cost for building each TouchPad. If the company chooses to sell the latest run of tablets at the same price point, it will lose a significant amount of money.
HP had previously expressed high hopes for WebOS, which it inherited as part of its acquisition of Palm in 2010. HP CEO Leo Apotheker had made no secret of his plans to eventually incense the operating system to other manufacturers, suggesting in a March 9 Bloomberg report that such a move would help create a "massive platform." That month, the company announced it would install WebOS on all desktop and notebook computers in 2012.
Now it seems those plans are dashed, especially since HP plans on spinning off its PC manufacturing division in addition to killing the tablet and smartphones and possibly licensing WebOS to other vendors. HP's new strategy involves repositioning itself as a seller of software and services, which will place it in direct competition with the likes of Oracle and Apotheker's former company SAP.
According to an Aug. 30 Reuters report, Todd Bradley, head of HP's Personal Systems Group, said he intends to lead the PC division if it becomes a separate enterprise. No takers have emerged so far for WebOS and its associated — and potentially lucrative — mobile patents.
In the meantime, though, the TouchPad will apparently have one last, zombie-style market run before it's gone for good.
Android TouchPad hack appears along with $2,300 hacking bounty
In related news, only a week after a project associated with CyanogenMod announced plans to start porting Android to the TouchPad, there's already a YouTube video up showing the TouchPad running an alpha version of a modified Android 2.3.5 (see below). The port is very basic, however, and lacks touch support.
CyanogenMod Android port to the TouchPad, on YouTube
(Click to play)
The team also said its progress has been slowed due to the lack of available TouchPads — a problem that could be eased by HP's new production run.
It appears CyanogenMod may have some way to go before it meets the requirements needed to win a bounty posted last week by Hacknmod.com. Originally announced at $1,500, the bounty for getting a complete Android build up and running on a TouchPad has grown to $2,300.
The total bounty is broken down into discrete prizes ranging from $950 for a basic Android port down to $100 for adding multitouch support.
Nicholas Kolakowski is a writer for eWEEK. Eric Brown contributed the Android port item.
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