Hewlett-Packard on Monday unveiled a promotion that gives customers an instant $50 rebate when they buy an HP TouchPad, which brings the price of the 16 GB model to $450 and the 32 GB model to $550.
HP is aiming to tap into a hoped-for spike in back-to-school IT spending, but a discount for a product that has barely been on the market for a month can hardly be considered a positive sign. Particularly when Apple gleefully noted in its Q3 earnings call last month that it's selling every single iPad it can make with no discount whatsoever.
HP is taking a long view on the TouchPad and future WebOS devices, and executives have been faithfully repeating the "marathon, not a sprint" mantra. Still, HP channel partners are getting a bit nervous about the lack of demand they're seeing for the HP TouchPad.
"I hope to see something, but as of right now I have nobody inquiring [about the TouchPad]," said one HP partner, who requested anonymity.
HP sees its channel, and the enterprise reach it provides, as its ace in the hole. John Convery, executive vice president of vendor relations and marketing at Denali Advanced Integration, a Redmond, Wash.-based HP partner, says interest in the HP TouchPad is heating up in the health-care segment, where many customers are requesting try-and-buy units.
"All our hospitals have trial units, but the order side will happen as they try the units and decide to buy," Convery said.
It's still early days in the HP TouchPad camp, and the company is preparing to launch a 4G version of the HP TouchPad through carrier partner AT&T this month. HP also released an over-the-air update on Monday that fixes some of the performance and reliability issues that early customers encountered.
HP says it's not trying to catch up to Apple, but if the $50 discount leads to a flood of TouchPad sales it's possible HP may decide to keep it in place to maintain its momentum. That's because a scenario in which TouchPads start flying off store shelves would help HP tackle its next big challenge: attracting developers to WebOS.