news Giant retailer Harvey Norman has reportedly instructed its retailers to stop selling HP’s doomed TouchPad tablet and offer those who had bought it refunds, just four days after it had gone on sale locally and with development of the iPad competitor having been cancelled in the US overnight.
The tablet went on sale on Monday this week, principally through retailer Harvey Norman, following a glitzy media launch locally just several weeks ago. The device had already launched in the US some months ago, with analysts anticipating it would be one of the main competitors to Apple’s iPad. However, in the US overnight and following reports of poor sales, HP revealed it would discontinue operations for webOS devices, “specifically the TouchPad and webOS phones”.
This morning Harvey Norman deleted the TouchPad from its online catalogue, although its franchisees were continuing to sell the device, with some believed to have no knowledge of the global pullback. By this afternoon, and reportedly following a meeting between HP and Harvey Norman in Australia, the situation had dramatically changed.
“Harvey Norman … has instructed its franchisees to take all stocks of the tablet off shelves, contact customers who purchased it, and offer them a full refund or credit for another purchase,” reported The Australian newspaper this afternoon.
Harvey Norman’s general manager for its computers and communications division, Ben McIntosh, has not returned calls on the matter, while HP Australia has declined to comment, directing enquiries to HP’s global press releases on the matter.
Telsyte research director Foad Fadaghi said he expected some form of “pragmatic approach” to existing stock from HP. He noted that there might be a surge of demand from collectors and bargain hunters for the TouchPad devices, now that the line had been cancelled.
In general, Fadaghi noted the TouchPad had not been very well-received by reviewers and analysts. “We’re not anticipating the units will sell extremely well in Australia,” he said. “We didn’t anticipate that they would in the first place.”
The analyst noted he didn’t believe the market would support “so many” vendors of very similar products, with half a dozen competing Android manufacturers also having entered the local tablet space to take on dominant player Apple, as well as BlackBerry manufacturer Research in Motion.
Delimiter’s review of the TouchPad found it had “many flaws”. “Laggy performance is only half the problem – the paucity of tablet-optimised apps coupled with a complete absence of paid apps at launch seriously limits the TouchPad’s appeal,” wrote reviewer Jenneth Orantia. One good aspect of the tablet was its unique webOS software — but it didn’t appear to be enough to make it a serious iPad competitor.
“To paraphrase Robert Arryn in Game of Thrones, we want to see the webOS fly (in a good way), but the TouchPad in its current incarnation doesn’t seem like the right vehicle to do it,” Orantia wrote. “As clever as webOS is, it’s let down by the TouchPad’s poorly performing hardware and a lacklustre apps ecosystem.”
Personally, I believe this is a bit of a knee-jerk reaction from HP or Harvey Norman (whoever is behind having the devices pulled off shelves). The TouchPads are still perfectly capable devices that function well for all the basic uses that most people would want them for — web browsing, emailing, social networking, looking at photos and so on. And what, precisely, is HP going to do with all of the excess inventory now that the line is end of life? Destroy it? Put it in storage for posterity?
A far better idea, in my opinion, would be to try and recoup some of the costs by continuing to sell the TouchPad through Harvey Norman at a steep discount — say 40 percent. This would undercut everything else on the market and allow HP to get rid of its excess stock honestly, pulling in some money while cutting its losses.
Image credits: HP