HP TouchPad Fire Sale Points to Open-Source WebOS Strategy

HP TouchPad Fire Sale Points to Open-Source WebOS Strategy

Hewlett-Packard slashed the price of its TouchPad tablet to $100 on eBay, pointing to an open-source shift of its WebOS strategy.

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company sold the devices on eBay for $100 for the 16-gigabyte version and $150 for its 32-gigabyte counterpart. The models were refurbished, and offered to HP employees prior to the general public. They reportedly sold out quickly.

The company’s final fire sale got rid of the last of its inventory before offering WebOS as an open-source platform, highlighting a change in the tech giant’s plans to compete in next year’s tablet market.

This is the second time HP offered the WebOS-based tablet at a deeply discounted price. In August, buyers swarmed retail stores to snatch up $100 TouchPads, following the company’s decision to pull support for the newly released tablet.

If WebOS indeed goes open-source, users who scored a cut-rate TouchPad can expect to have apps and software to run on it in the future, as the platform will be open to developers.

HP’s sale comes at a time when the company is forging a new path into the tablet market. Making WebOS open source would ensure its availability for future tablet offerings, and the eBay sale will allow HP to unload the last of its TouchPad inventory and raise interest in the OS in preparation for the change.

The price of tablets is expected to drop in 2012, as more competing devices come to market to push against Apple’s dominating iPad. Amazon’s Kindle Fire and Barnes and Noble’s Nook, both Android-powered tablets offered at a lower price point, are off to strong starts, and HP is looking to make its own mark on the rapidly developing market.

Rather than planning another high-end, high-priced tablet to meet Apple head-on, the company is expected to chip away at the tablet market with a subtler strategy, making its WebOS available for use on lower-priced tablets still in development. HP CEO Meg Whitman said the company had not ruled out another foray into the tablet market, telling website The Verge that it planned to manufacture more devices running WebOS, though next year was a distant possibility.

HP has been looking to grab a share of mobile tablet sales, but its short-lived TouchPad did not sell as well as expected. By combining market-busting prices with an open-source OS, the company may enter next year well-positioned to make another run at this crucial segment to transition the company into the mobile market.

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