HP TouchPad: Coming soon to a Dollar Store near you!

Reports indicate Best Buy can't sell WebOS-powered tablets, wants HP to take them back

Hewlett Packard is going to be asked by analysts at Thursday's quarterly earnings conference call about sales figures for its TouchPad tablet.

Expect some obfuscation and double-talk, because based on the mix of negative reviews, multiple price cuts and, now, reports that Best Buy can't give away the WebOS-powered devices, it appears the TouchPad is a giant flop.

All Things Digital reports that a source who has seen HP internal figures says Best Buy has been able to sell only 25,000 of the 270,000 TouchPads shipped to it since the tablet went on sale July 1. But the situation may be worse than even that sounds.

All Things Digital's Arik Hesseldahl writes:

A second person who has seen Best Buy’s TouchPad sales figures confirmed the results as “consistent with what I’ve seen,” and went so far as to say that 25,000 sold might be “charitable.” This source suggested that the 25,000-unit sales number may not account for units that consumers return to stores for a refund.

Best Buy, sources tell us, is so unhappy that it has told HP it is unwilling to pay for all the TouchPads taking up expensive space in its stores and warehouses, and wants HP to take them back. HP, for its part, is pleading with Best Buy to be patient.

If these reports are close to accurate, HP's plight is almost pathetic because, let's face it, pleading really means begging.

HP's several temporary and permanent price cuts to the TouchPad in the few weeks since its release clearly were a sign that sales were slow. Even HP won't bother to dispute that. And while I wrote recently that the permanent cut to $399 from $499 was a good move, now I suspect it wasn't enough.

Look at it from a consumer's point of view. You want a tablet, but a good tablet. Your choices are to spend $499 for an iPad -- the current tablet gold standard -- or save $100 to buy a tablet that got lukewarm to lousy reviews, and now carries the stench of market rejection. Even in these tough economic times, is $100 really going to keep you from getting the iPad instead? In the vast majority of cases, I'd say no.

Unless HP can upgrade public perceptions of its tablet -- and a good start would be to make a better tablet -- I'm guessing it would have to price the TouchPad below $300, or even $250, to generate respectable sales. And at that point, it might not even be worth it.

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