Would you buy a HP Touchpad for $99?

In the wake of the news of HP dropping the guillotine on its WebOS products comes the answer to the question, “What are retailers like Best Buy going to do with the bazillions of HP Touchpads in their inventory?”

The answer, at least in North America, is to drop the price like crazy. From $399 (for the 16GB model) the price has gone down to $99 from some Canadian dealers, with US retailers said to follow suit . The 32GB goes down to $149.99 (down from $500). I hope the price drop filters down to us here in Southeast Asia as well.

This price drop will of course infuriate you if you’re one of the unfortunate early adopters who paid $500. The Pre and WebOS blogs are full of comments from irate early users who now wish HP executives will burn in hell for all eternity. But for the rest of us, this suddenly makes the Touchpad an interesting buy.

There are also a lot of revelations coming out about how sluggish the Touchpad really was. If the folks at The Next Web are to be believed, the HP Touchpad is one slow tablet. HP had designed the tablet without an operating system at the time of the Palm acquisition and had ordered the Palm guys to shoehorn their OS into it. The result was not a good fit – in tests, WebOS actually ran faster when installed on an iPad 2.

But even with all the hardware shortcomings, a $99 Touchpad could have some use as an alternative to other one-trick pony devices.

  • For example, it would make a nice e-book reader, assuming there are free WebOS apps for PDF and EPUB formats.
  • With the “Beats” sound technology (thanks to a recent licensing deal between HP and Beats), it would make a good (albeit large) music player.
  • Assuming it has GPS and there are some good maps and navigation software available, it would make a nice car GPS with a gargantuan screen.
  • And lastly, given the right hacks, there could be the possibility of running Android on this device.
A screen from Futureshop.ca - $99 Touchpads are sold out!

I checked the reviews on Amazon.com (where the 16GB is still selling at the slightly discounted price of $398) and they are still gushing about it. These were were obviously written before the huge price drop.

Like this user review by “D. Higgins” :

I love this integration of all these mainstream services! It’s really clever.

While my iPad seems very app-centric, webOS 3.0 feels more like “the matrix has you”. It takes your online world and puts it into the tablet. I love that. All of those websites I often interact with get glued together seamlessly so I feel like I’m “jacked in”.

A major strength of the TouchPad is the web functionality that won’t work on the iPad. For example, I ran Amazon’s cloud music player and Grooveshark just fine (awesome!).

On the down side, the apps are slim, but trust me, they will be coming fast and furious over the next year, like a modern-age gold rush. As someone who has ported over my C++ game engine and product ( atPeace ) to TouchPad from IOS, I can tell you that it was pretty easy, and others will certainly follow. This version 1 of the product is the closest any tablet is to competing with Apple, developers will soon be pouring over.

My only real gripe is not having NetFlix working with it yet. That’s coming I’m sure, but something I use on my iPad a lot, and I miss. 😦

All in all, I’d say if you want something for business, or to have a tablet built around your online presence, or just a good tablet which can run flash, this might be for you. I still love my iPad, don’t get me wrong, but for a long time I didn’t see why anyone was realistically imagining they could compete with the iPad. I mean, Apple does it sooooo well. Well, now I understand why. WebOS 3.0.

Don’t discount this device, it’s got great potential. We finally a good competitor for Apple in the tablet world, which should make both products improve.

Alas, the potential of WebOS may never be fully realized. In the meantime, here’s a cheap ebook reader you may want to buy. For people traveling to the US or Canada (or Balikbayans thinking of a great pasalubong), this is one helluva deal you may want to check out. I’m hoping the price continues to drop further southwards.

$50 would sound pretty good.


Update: CNET reports that Best Buy in the US will be selling the HP Touchpad for $100 on Sunday August 21, “on a first come first-served basis”.

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