With an absence of fanfare, Amazon has begun taking pre-orders for Hewlett Packard's inaugural 4G wireless broadband TouchPad, which AT&T is expected to begin offering to U.S. customers sometime this month.
Amazon is selling the HP Touchpad 4G for $700, which doesn't include an AT&T data service contract. AT&T offers prepaid and postpaid tablet data plans, both of which cost $15 monthly for 250 MB of data and $25 monthly for 2 GB. For the postpaid plan, AT&T charges $10 per 1 GB of overage.
The HP TouchPad 4G is most notable for its 1.5 GHz processor, a step up from the 1.2 GHz processor in the Wi-Fi-only TouchPad that HP launched on July 1. The TouchPad 4G also comes with 32 GB of storage, integrated GPS, and for subscribers with qualifying data plans, unlimited access to more than 20,000 AT&T Wi-Fi hotspots around the U.S.
HP hasn't offered sales figures for the TouchPad, but recent deep discounts suggest that they haven't been flying off store shelves. Over the weekend, Staples customers were able to save $200 off the 16GB and 32GB HP TouchPads by taking advantage of $100 instant discounts from HP and Staples. And Woot.com, which sold the 16GB HP TouchPad for $379 in a deal that ran over the week, sold just 612 units.
HP is also offering a $50 TouchPad discount that runs through Sept. 10, and it's also offering $50 in WebOS App Catalog credit to customers who purchased a TouchPad between July 1 and Aug. 4.
Despite the much-discussed dearth of WebOS applications, Stephen DeWitt, senior vice president and general manager of its webOS global business unit, told CRN last month that the 500 native TouchPad applications currently on offer are more than the iPad had at launch.
HP's response to TouchPad doomsayers would be that it's still early days in the tablet space and Apple, despite what some industry pundits may say, isn't immune to competition.
HP insists that the TouchPad is much more manageable and secure than the iPad, and a more logical fit for enterprise IT, but with 86 percent of the Fortune 500 currently testing or deploying the iPad, those points are open to debate.
What HP needs most right now, and what the price cuts are intended to achieve, is market share. WebOS represents a relatively small target for developers at the moment, and if HP is to fulfill its goal of getting channel partners to add WebOS development to their skill set, the company has got to find a way to expand it dramatically.