Hewlett-Packard has decided to make permanent the $100 instant discount it offered on the HP TouchPad this past weekend, the latest indication of the company's resolve to build WebOS market share through price cuts.
The $100 TouchPad discount replaces the $50 back-to-school discount HP unveiled early last week that was slated to run through Sept. 10.
"HP continually evaluates pricing for its products and is pleased to permanently extend its back-to-school promotion on the HP TouchPad," a HP spokesperson said Wednesday in an e-mailed statement.
HP executives say they view the tablet PC competition as a marathon and not a sprint, but this price cut, and a flurry of others unveiled last week, suggest that HP TouchPad sales have been proceeding at a tortoise-like pace since the July 1 launch.
Meanwhile, HP channel partners who've been doggedly evangelizing WebOS and TouchPad are getting nervous at the slow pace of adoption. Their concern is understandable: In addition to the preponderance of competing tablets, HP's argument that the TouchPad is a more suitable "enterprise tablet" is open to debate, especially since virtualization technology can be used to securely deliver applications to any device.
All of this points to a need for urgency in the HP camp, and slashing the price on TouchPad could be just what the doctor ordered. At $399 for the 16 GB model and $499 for the 32 GB model, the HP TouchPad is now priced well below the iPad, and in a competitive range with competing tablets from Acer and Asus.
If TouchPad price cuts don't work, HP still has a potential ace up its sleeve. As HP CEO Leo Apotheker said in June, HP is looking at licensing WebOS to third party device makers. Which could be huge since WebOS is one aspect of the TouchPad that has been widely praised.
Of course, HP would like to be the company that illustrates the greatness of WebOS, but if another OEM comes along and manages to propel WebOS from a cult classic into a full blown blockbuster, HP wouldn't be shedding any tears.
And the more WebOS devices there are on the market, the more quickly HP will be able to build mobile application development momentum, which has been a key linchpin for both Apple and Android. HP points to the 600-plus TouchPad-specific apps currently listed on the App Catalog, but this obviously isn't a number that's driving TouchPad sales.
With the $100 discount, HP is reacting to the realities of the tablet space right now. The WebOS market share race might not be an all-out sprint, but HP definitely has to start making tracks, and soon.