The $99 TouchPad Sale Overwhelms Ebay As Consumers Snatch Up The Discontinued Tablet

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And like that they’re gone. $99 TouchPads hit ebay right on schedule and were gone within minutes. But that’s to be expected, really. It’s not often that a solid piece of hardware like the TouchPad is available for so cheap. And thanks to HP’s recent moves, the tablet’s operating system, webOS, will be around at least in some capacity for as long as there’s a demand (and developers).

The sale started at 7pm EST on HP’s ebay store like the memo we leaked indicated. Both the 16GB and 32GB models were available for $99 and $149, respectively. I watched the 16GB model disappear from ebay within 10 minutes. As of this post’s writing, 2 hours after the sale began, only one SKU of the $150 32GB TouchPads are still available although those will likely be gone soon as well. But good luck as ebay is still flaky hours after the sale started. Twitter and forums sites quickly relayed the troubles of many buyers shortly after 7. Ebay was crashing. PayPal was lagging. The whole thing was a mess. For a short moment in time, HP’s tablet was anything but an unwanted iPad clone.

Some what surprisingly, consumers could buy more than two TouchPads. The original memo indicated only two SKUs, which as interpreted as two TouchPads per person. But there were several SKUs for each the 16GB and 32GB. Some buyers likely took advantage of this and bought up a gaggle of TouchPads.

This land rush of sorts reaffirms that consumers overwhelming want a tablet but are seemingly turned off by the current prices. The iPad dominates the $499 and higher price point and Apple has encountered little trouble selling units even at that price. Competitors have not been so lucky for a number or reasons. However, instead of fighting the iPad directly with competitive hardware, Amazon and Barnes & Noble are undercutting the current champion with low-cost hardware and a curated (some would say walled) user experience. It’s working.

The $199 Kindle Fire was the top seller on Amazon for weeks before it was even released. Likewise, B&N managed to ship more than a million Nook Tablets in just a month. Consumers want a low-cost tablet device — something Arrington and others tried to produce starting in 2008.

Tonight’s fire sale might be the last HP webOS hardware the world sees for a while. But webOS isn’t dead. HP stated last week that there will be new hardware in 2013. As for the operating system itself, HP is releasing it under an open source license, effectively releasing a domesticated animal into the wild. But for a very short time that puppy was loved. Unfortunately, it’s owner (Palm) didn’t have the room to let it grow so the dog was sold to HP who, as it turns out, didn’t have the patiences or the time for proper development — you know, metaphorically. But now that webOS is open, or will be shortly, the TouchPad has a real shot at living a full life.