At 7pm ET yesterday evening, the last of the HP TouchPads went on sale on HP’s eBay store for the greatly-reduced price of $99 for the 16GB version, and $149 for the 32GB model. Within minutes, they were gone, according to a variety of reports. The demand for the super-cheap, now-discontinued tablet was so furious that it caused major performance issues for eBay, which in turn caused major headaches for some customers.
Given the limitations of the WebOS-based TouchPad, which has few of the benefits of tablets running more widely-used operating systems, like Android or iOS, many are wondering why the high demand. But that’s simple: People want cheap tablets. We’ve seen this is a slightly less furious way with Amazon’s $200 Kindle Fire tablet, which runs a highly-modified version of Android 2.3 (Gingerbread). At that low price — less than half that of an iPad 2 — Amazon’s tablet is set to become the second most-popular tablet on the market, and it’s only been on sale for a few weeks.
Another possible explanation is that app developers snatched up all the remaining TouchPad units thanks to HP’s announcement on Friday that WebOS is being released as an open-source platform, which in theory makes it a much more attractive to them. While there were surely a few developers who got in on the fire-sale action, it seems far more likely that people just wanted an inexpensive tablet to have under the tree the Christmas.
Either way, this is the last we’ll see of $99 tablets from HP — there are no more TouchPads to sell. At least, no more of the current version. According to HP chief executive Meg Whitman, the company may produce a new line of WebOS-based tablets next year, though those plans remain firmly up in the air.