Hewlett-Packard is planning one last, glorious ride for the HP TouchPad by manufacturing an unspecified amount of the devices "to meet unfulfilled demand" for the discontinued webOS slate. Although HP's tablet never fared well when it went head-to-head against the iPad at $499, and later at $399, people couldn't get enough of the device once HP gave it a fire sale price of $99.
The company says it will produce TouchPads during HP's fourth fiscal quarter ending October 31. It's not clear if that means HP will be manufacturing TouchPads through the entire quarter or just that the company will be producing webOS tablets sometime between now and Halloween. Rumor has it HP is making new TouchPads to appease component makers in HP's supply chain who were upset about being left with TouchPad parts sitting in their warehouses.
Regardless, it's good news for deal-hunting TouchPad fans that HP has plans to get more cheap webOS slates onto the market. Here's a breakdown of what we know so far about HP's second TouchPad fire sale.
How many TouchPads will be available?
HP says it doesn't know for sure how many TouchPads it will be able to sell, so the company can't promise it will have enough for everyone who has indicated interest in the device.
When will the new HP TouchPads go on sale?
HP isn't sure exactly when it will have its last run of TouchPads available for purchase. The company figures it will be at least a few weeks. If you signed up to be notified via email, HP says it will let you know when TouchPads are available, and the company will also update its TouchPad FAQ page with more information.
But since it is going to be a race to get your hands on a TouchPad, a good strategy would be to keep your eye on the Twitter accounts for HP's social media reps, Bryna Corcoran and Mark Budgell, in case there is no advance notice.
How much will the TouchPads cost?
HP didn't explicitly say that the new run of TouchPads will be sold for $99 each, but all indications from HP suggest that the fire sale price will remain the same.
How many can I buy at once?
It's not clear how many you will be allowed to buy, but don't count on buying truckloads of the device, as HP says it will impose a purchase limit for each customer.
Where can I get a TouchPad?
You can bet on being able to get a TouchPad from HP's online storefront, but it's not clear if retail chains will also be carrying TouchPad stock. HP's FAQ says each retailer will be responsible for its own pricing, but it's not clear whether that means any third-party outlets plan on carrying the device. Your best bet is to contact electronics retailers in your area such as Best Buy, Office Depot, and others to see whether they have any TouchPad news to share with you.
Is buying a discontinued tablet crazy?
Some people, such as Windows blogger Paul Thurrott, think so. "The TouchPad was worthless when it was fully supported. So it's beyond worthless now," Thurrott says. But if you want a tablet primarily for Web browsing, you can't go wrong with a TouchPad. Besides, you will also have access to a limited number of third-party webOS apps, at least for the immediate future.
And if you don't like webOS....
There are several fun projects going on right now to turn the TouchPad into a hacker's dream tablet by porting a variety of Linux-based operating systems to the device. Liliputing has a how-to post for daring readers willing to go through a detailed process to install Ubuntu 11.04 on their HP tablet.
And of course, hackers are hard at work trying to port Android to the TouchPad. The TouchDroid project plans on using Android 2.3.5 (Gingerbread) for its beta tests before trying to put a tablet-specific version of Android on the TouchPad such as the forthcoming version, Ice Cream Sandwich.
The TouchDroid team better hurry up, as the team over at Cyanogen Mod last Friday was showing off a port of Cyanogen Mod version 7 running on the TouchPad--albeit without a functioning touchscreen. Cyanogen Mod is a popular alternative Android distribution for rooted devices. Cyanogen Mod version 7 is based on the non-tablet-friendly Android 2.3 (Gingerbread).
The Cyanogen team says it still has a long way to go before its TouchPad firmware distribution will be ready for prime time and is not providing any estimates on when the port will be ready.
For interested developers, there is also a $2100 bounty being offered to anyone who successfully ports Android to the TouchPad.