The $99 HP Touchpad tablet is turning into the McRib of technology: Available for a limited time, then disappearing, then available again, and then disappearing, ad infinitum.
The latest development in the ill-fated Touchpad's on-again/off-again availability is that Hewlett-Packard is apparently putting more of its discontinued tablets on sale for $99, starting the evening of December 11.
The sale was not intended for the general public, at least initially. HP told its employees in what appears to be an internal email that it would be selling refurbished Touchpads for $99 starting Sunday, December 11, at 6:00 PM CST; HP employees would have the first go at the tablets, and if there were any left, the public would be informed on the morning of December 12. That changed when the email leaked out to several publications.
From that email, via TechCrunch:
In an effort to give HP employees first chance at a very limited supply of refurbished TouchPads, there will be a short delay between when the product is posted live for sale on eBay and when the general public is notified of the sale.
Refurbished HP TouchPads, both 16GB and 32GB versions, will be posted for sale through the HP eBay store at: 6:00 p.m. (Central Time), Sunday, December 11th. If you are interested in purchasing a refurbished TouchPad, please make yourself a reminder to log-on to eBay a few minutes before the sale starts to make your purchase.
The TouchPads will be available for sale here (under “Laptops”):
Also of note, from the email:
1. There will be 16GB Touchpads (for $99) and 32GB Touchpads (for $149). There is a limit of two per customer and the purchase must be made through Paypal.
2. If you already have a Touchpad, a bundle containing a case, charging dock and laptop will also be available for $69.
3. The new Touchpads will ONLY be available on HP's eBay store here.
4. The newly available Touchpads were going to be announced to the general public on the morning of December 12.
It will be interesting to see if Hewlett-Packard changes the timing of the sale to give employees early access once again, given that the first email found its way to the public.
Could this, once and for all, be the last Touchpad fire sale?
After discontinuing its tablet in August after it was on the shelves for just under three months, HP offered the Touchpad for $99 in an attempt to sell off as much inventory as it could; this led to a buying frenzy as bargain-hunters tried everything to get a cheap tablet. After the initial run, HP launched another sale later that week; following that, Touchpads had been popping up at different retailers for months. HP had announced that another run of Touchpads were coming soon in a company blog post at the end of October, and it appears that those tablets are completed and ready to be sold.
Hewlett-Packard has not yet commented on the upcoming Touchpad sale nor commented on the validity of the email; until it does, keep in mind that the Touchpad is supposedly headed for the HP eBay store on Sunday, December 11, at 7 PM EST/6 CST.
BlackBerry-maker RIM has also seen success with the huge holiday markdown on its PlayBook tablet. RIM's price slash brought PlayBook base units down to $199 from $499, and retailers reportedly sold out within days. However, the PlayBook's overall success hasn't been what RIM expected, and the company announced on December 2 that it would be taking a pre-tax charge of $485 million for its recently closed third quarter.