— In recently slashing prices for its TouchPad to $99, HP brought new life to the dying tablet with a surge of sales that wiped out its existing inventory. Just days earlier, the company announced it would "discontinue operations for webOS devices, specifically the TouchPad and webOS phones."
The bargain-basement price reduction for a tablet that has, for the most part, gotten mixed reviews (and certainly proved not to be an iPad killer) drove reports that 350,000 TouchPads had been sold in just 24 hours. That amounts to more than 10 times the number of tablets that had been sold at Best Buy prior to HP's exit announcement: 25,000.
The buying frenzy was fueled by cuts of about $250, which resulted in a $99 TouchPad 16GB and a $150 TouchPad 32GB.
The Next Web Mobile reported one California Best Buy store sold 140 of the tablets in an hour. Reports poured in of sold-out status at most major retailers and also online.
When asked for comment, an HP spokeswoman responded to msnbc.com with this statement:
"We are pleased by the response to webOS and look forward to customer feedback so we can further enhance the platform. TouchPads are temporarily out of stock in some places and customers can check with hp.com or retailers for more information."
HP would not offer any other information about whether the tablets would be replenished, or how long it would continue to be sold at the current, reduced prices.
Checking on the HP website for the TouchPad gives consumers an option to be notified when the products are available, but clicking on those buttons leads only to a page that reads, "Due to the significant price reduction, we experienced overwhelming demand for the product and are temporarily out of inventory."
But consumers who ordered a new HP TouchPad from the HP Small and Medium Business Store on Aug. 20 or 21 were directed to a page with this message:
"We have received unprecedented orders as a result of the tremendous discount offered. This is clear confirmation to HP there is huge interest in building a webOS community. We apologize for any difficulty you may have had in ordering on the web or through the phone this weekend; it was as a result of selling out of our current inventory.
"Your order has been captured and you should receive a confirmation over the next 48 hours."
Best Buy also offered refunds of the difference between the clearance price of the TouchPad and what customers who bought the device after June 19 paid for it.
In its Aug.18 announcement explaining the discontinuation of the Palm Pre smartphones and TouchPads, HP explained, "The devices have not met internal milestones and financial targets."
In a strange twist, it also left the door open for webOS to continue, as shown in HP's statement above, and in the Aug. 18 press release: "HP will continue to explore options to optimize the value of webOS software going forward."
In its quick hit list of company facts, HP shows the reach of its software, which "makes calls possible for more than 300 million mobile phone customers around the globe."
To further add ambiguity and confusion about HP's direction with webOS, webOS chief Stephen DeWitt told AllThingsD that the company still plans on plans on installing webOS on PCs and printers, and that further updates are in the works for the Veer smartphone and TouchPad.
HP also announced that it'll investigate strategic alternatives for its Personal Systems Group, which handles includes desktop and notebook PCs, handheld products, personal storage appliances and workstations. The company ships 48 million PCs a year. An HP spokesperson said options include a public spin-off, sale of the business or keeping it within HP.
On Monday, HP announced the release of the new HP Compaq 8200 Elite All-in-One Business Desktop, a $999 unit that comes with a 23-inch HD LED monitor, an Intel 2nd generation Core vPro Processor and Blu-ray Writer Drive, among its features.
The HP spokesperson said, "As we make those investigations, we remain committed to our customers in 170 countries and see enormous potential to increase PC sales in emerging regions. Customers made us No. 1, and we intend to retain their trust and earn their continued, uninterrupted business. The HP Compaq 8200 Elite all-in-one PC launch yesterday underscores our commitment to our customers.
"Regardless of ultimate structure of PC business, whether a spin off, sale or keeping it within the HP portfolio, the intent is still to have the #1 PC business in the industry with a robust set of products and a defined and compelling roadmap. We ship more than 1 million printers per week."
While HP is putting on a positive face to the outside world, it's a different story within its own ranks.
Shareholders responded quickly and definitively to HP's new direction, sending stock value down 20 percent — a loss valued at $16 billion — on Friday.