The launch of the iPhone 4 and both iPads saw crowds out in force. It's far less common to see non-Apple products with such frenzied queues, but that’s exactly what happened today when Harvey Norman sold off its stock of TouchPads starting at $99.
Certainly, there were folks buying them as a bargain; while the WebOS tablet wasn’t great, there’s nothing to compare at the $99 price point. Equally, some folks would have been buying them in order to onsell them on eBay, although that’s something that’ll probably peak very quickly.
What it does point to, however, is a weak chink in Apple’s otherwise impenetrable iPad armour. So far a number of different hardware manufacturers have launched tablets at prices similar to the iPad. Given the huge head start that iOS has in the app stakes, both in numbers and quality of tablet apps, it’s a bit of a dud starting point. Why would consumers opt for a lesser tablet at the same price? Drop the price considerably, however, as the HP example shows, and they’ll not only turn up, but flood stores with people eager to buy.
The HP TouchPad: anecdotal reports indicate it has already sold out across the country
There’s no doubt that HP lost money on the TouchPad, but it doesn’t have to be that way, and there’s already a perfectly functional model that another tablet manufacturer could adopt; that of mobile phones. While most high-end smartphones ‘officially’ sell for between $700-$1000, it’s rare that consumers pay that price; instead they sign up to contracts where the cost isn’t the hardware, it’s the ongoing access fees, and the hardware cost is subsidised against that.
It has been tried on a small scale with the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1v and Vodafone, but nobody’s gone all-in, the way HP essentially was forced to, with a cheap tablet subsidised by either apps or ongoing service fees. It might just be the way to upset the Apple cart.
What do you think? Would you buy a cheaper tablet in the way you buy a mobile phone contract, or were TouchPad buyers just opportunistic one-off types? Add your comment below.