You may have heard that last week HP killed its "iPad killer" TouchPad tablet after being on sale for two months. Not only was the end sudden, but expensive: HP bought TouchPad's operating system, webOS when it bought Palm in April 2010 for $1.2 billion.
But HP and its retailers have a LOT of excess TouchPads. So HP has lowered the prices of its remaining 16 and 32 GB versions to the unbelievable low price of $99 and $149 respectively.
Such a bargain!
Well, not really. My recommendation: DON'T, under any circumstances, buy a cheap HP TouchPad.
UPDATE: HP is also offering purchasers of the TouchPad a full refund or the price diffrerence between what was paid and the new price. Who is eligible? Best Buy says anyone who purchased one from them after June 19 can return it for a refund. But if you own a TouchPad, check with whomever you originally bought it from. You may have trouble getting through to HP.
We now return you to our original post.
Remember VHS? Floppy discs? Disc film? 8-track? Beta? HD-DVD? These have become known as orphan technologies. If you burrow through your closet, you're likely to find either the tapes or discs or whatever, and maybe the gear you played them on – but not both.
I myself made the mistake of buying an HD-DVD player for the low low price of $60 right after Toshiba announced it was ending its fight against Blu-ray in February 2008. I have exactly four HD-DVD discs to play in it. Since I've replaced both my DVD players with Blu-ray decks, the HD-DVD deck is now merely clogging my closet.
webOS, now that it has been deserted by not one but two parents, is such an orphan technology. HP's abandonment means no one else will produce any hardware that runs webOS.
More importantly, since there won't be any more webOS hardware, no more webOS apps will be developed. And for a tablet, no apps means you won't be able to do much with it.
It's the apps, stupid
You see, a tablet is like a tabula rasa, literally a blank slate. Unlike a digital music player or a cell phone or a digital camera or nearly every other gadget or electronics component, a tablet has no single specific purpose. You have to load apps on it to make useful.
Yes, there are around 300 TouchPad-specific webOS apps, even though fewer than 50 are listed on HP's webOS apps site. And, yes, there are a few thousand webOS apps originally designed for Palm's webOS smart phones. But there's been a question about these older webOS apps will work on a TouchPad, and who knows from where you'll be able to get these old Palm apps even if they did run (fan sites such as PreCentral.net will likely be around for a little while longer than HP's webOS app gallery).
So, sure, you'll be able to surf the Web, answer email, look at your photos, listen to music, play Angry Birds and other pedantic tablet functions. But you'll soon tire of these limited activities, then be disappointed by the dearth of expanding your app activities.
It's not that TouchPad is a bad tablet – but it's not a good one, either. But even if TouchPad was the Ferrari of tablets, it'll be a Ferrari for which you will be unable to buy gasoline to run on.
So, yes, $99 for a tablet PC sounds like a bargain. But you'll soon be left with a $99 dust-collecting picture frame instead of $99 to put toward a tablet with a future.