Suddenly, at Least Temporarily, the TouchPad is the Mythical Cheap iPad Alternative

By  |  Friday, August 5, 2011 at 11:43 am

First, HP introduced its TouchPad tablet at the same starting price as Apple’s iPad: $499. Then it introduced a $50 instant rebate, bringing the price down to $449. Then it announced a special $100 instant rebate this weekend, bringing the price down to $399.

And now WebOSRoundup says that Staples has a $100 coupon that you can use and still qualify for the instant rebate–letting you snag a 16GB TouchPad for $299, or a 40 percent discount off the original price.

That’s one way of answering the question “Why should anyone buy the HP TouchPad instead of the iPad”–give the TouchPad a much more aggressive price. The TouchPad may theoretically be going back to $499, but in the world of tech, there’s almost no such thing as once-in-a-lifetime deals: if a $299 TouchPad is available today, it probably means that all 16GB TouchPads will go for $299 sooner or later. Probably sooner. And while it might help move tablets, it presumably isn’t a sign that HP is thrilled with how well the TouchPad is selling at $499.

So does a $299 TouchPad change the game? A little bit, yes. It wouldn’t turn a crummy tablet into a fabulous deal. It doesn’t make the TouchPad, which isn’t crummy but does have its issues, into a better buy than a $499 iPad 2. But you might reasonably overlook some of the $299 TouchPad’s downsides–the fact that it’s thicker and heavier than the iPad, for instance.  You might even be a tad less fussy about the overall level of polish. (The WebOS update that HP released this week has gotten mixed reviews; I need to use it more to form my own opinion.)

Really, though, anyone who buys a TouchPad is buying into the device’s promise–which remains considerable–as much as its present. (That’s fine: I’ve made purchases like that myself.) A year from now, the TouchPad and WebOS are either going to be doing better than most people expected or are going to look disappointing; there’s no state of neutrality when you’re competing against the Apple juggernaut (and Android, too). A low price could help if it entices more people to buy TouchPads, and that leads to more software developers deciding to build apps. But in the tablet battle, I think that good is going to be a far more potent weapon than cheap.

So are any of you going to head to Staples this weekend?


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9 Comments For This Post

  1. JohnFen Says:

    Nope. But then, I’m not buying an iPad either. The form factor simply isn’t remotely compelling to me. If I’m going to lug something that big (and expensive) around, it’s going to be a laptop so I can have a good full-featured computer. My current laptop (HP Pavilion) was had from Frye’s for $250, so even the new cheaper price for the tablet is far too expensive.

  2. Richard Says:

    Although my iPad 2 is truly magical, I am tempted to spend $299 to see what WebOS is about. However, I think I’ll wait for the rumored, soon-to-be-released iPad 3/iPad Pro and buy that instead.

  3. Matt Says:

    "First, HP introduced its TouchPad tablet at the same starting price as Apple’s iPad: $499. Then it introduced a $50 instant rebate, bringing the price down to $549. "

    math fail

  4. Hamranhansenhansen Says:

    Apple's PC ASP is $1200 and HP's is $450. Apple's tablet ASP is $625 and HP's tablet ASP is obviously going to be $300. Why would you buy a Compaq unless it was half price? HP is selling Mac clones and iPad clones and iPhone clones. Half price is their top number.

  5. WeaponX Says:

    I know it can't get any cheaper for me to buy.

  6. Stilgar Says:

    Tablets are still toys to me, so I agree with JohnFen up there, but if I were to buy a tablet, I'd still pick pretty much anything over the TouchPad. For $350 you can get a refurbished 1st Gen iPad from the Apple Store. That probably has more life left in it than the TouchPad does.

  7. Johnny Says:

    Price is the most important psychological reason to buy a TouchPad (it worked for me…thanks, Staples!). But the technological reason to buy a TouchPad over another tablet is the same as it's always been: The TouchPad has webOS, and the others do not.

  8. Dave Says:

    $300 is still too much for a tablet with no apps. Tablets are luxory devices so they need to have a purpose other than surfing the web and sending email.

  9. blogc2011 Says:

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