Every now and again, I like to write about technology. Truth be told, I was interested in technology far before I got interested in personal finance... and I raiding my mom's Kiplinger's in middle school - perhaps even in elementary school. Today, I'd like to talk about the HP Touchpad, a new tablet computer in the mold of an iPad. If you've been reading the weekend roundups around here the last few weeks, you know that it's been on my mind. Prior that, I've been writing about my love affair with the Palm Pre for the last two years. The Palm Pre and the HP Touchpad both use the same operating system, which I (and many technology analysts) consider it the best out there. Unfortunately, you probably have never used it since neither Palm nor HP have put together a marketing campaign that compares with Apple's or Google's and they've never had a heavyweight partner like AT&T and Verizon pushing their product like those two companies.
I've been eying the Touchpad for months. However, I've found myself having the same feelings as I had when Apple announce the iPad. It's very cool, but in a lot of ways, it's a toy without a purpose. I typically have my laptop near me at home and when I'm out a smartphone does the job. If I had a lot of one-on-one meetings, I could see using a tablet to open up a page or two, or use it to illustrate something that I'm selling. Could it replace my laptop in the living room? For many people it probably could. For me, as a blogger, I have my doubts about using anything without a real keyboard.
HP Touchpad as a Dedicated Blogging Computer?
Those doubts have started to shift. I'm starting to think that the HP Touchpad would be an ideal blogging platform. My mind started to change when I saw this set-up from Joshua Topolsky, the former editor of Engadget:
In the picture you have the HP Touchpad, the keyboard and the HP Touchstone. The HP Touchstone is the hardest to see, but it's what's holding it up at a good viewing angle. By just sitting on the stand, no plugging in of any cords, the tablet charges. If the keyboard wasn't there, you might think it was a photo picture frame (and it can do that). With only one cord, it's the kind of technology that my wife would love. (I can't even begin to count the cords around our television - it's a mess).
Shortly after that, I saw this official WordPress webOS application and video:
Lazy Man and Money is run by WordPress and I have to say that the demo is extremely compelling. And I'm not saying that just because I want the voice-over guy to read me bedtime stories at night.
One of the difficulties I have with blogging is distraction. I could see creating a blogging nook where I could take the Touchpad and keyboard and get down to business. No longer would I be reading the 157th article about how Albert Haynesworth and Chad Ochocinco are going to work out in the Patriots locker room. (At least that's the theory.) This concept may be the final thing I need to push me to buy it.
Is the HP Touchpad a Good Value
Value is always a difficult thing to pin down. A good value for me may not represent a good value for you (the exception I believe is MonaVie - a bad value for everyone). In the case of the Touchpad, I might be able to make a financial case for buying one. It may be a bit of a stretch, and there's at least an 92% chance that I'm trying to convince myself here. I'll let you be the judge.
The HP Touchpad was released at the beginning of the month for $499 for the 16GB version and $599 for the 32GB version. Those prices were little steep for my tastes. I figured I could justify $100 of the price just for the dedicated blogging platform. Unfortunately, that requires buying the keyboard and Touchstone, which together are around $120 in addition to the Touchpad itself.
Then I noticed that with the Touchpad you get a 50GB Box.net account free for life. Box.net customers pay $20 a month for that level service. If was interested in that service (and on some level I am), the Touchpad would pay for itself in a little over two years. If you are a Box.net customer and plan on continuing to be one for the next couple of years, you might as well collect a free Touchpad. Maybe you can sell it to someone who doesn't care about the Box.net account and collect the service for life - for the difference in price of what you buy and sell the Touchpad at.
The next "deal" came directly from HP themselves. This "deal" was for current Palm Pre owners. HP had promised that the Pre would be upgradable to the newest version operating system, but when they started dealing with carriers or limited resources, realized they couldn't deliver on that promise. To "make it right" (their words), they offered $50 off of the 32GB Touchpad. I'm never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, but when you break down the difference in cost of a 16GB and a 32GB it comes to $22. The devices themselves are exactly the same except for the 32GB memory chip is $22 more than the 16GB chip. When people buy a 32GB Touchpad vs. a 16GB Touchpad at the $100 retail difference, HP collects $78 extra dollars. HP, in offering this "deal", would still be making $28 by upselling the customers who take advantage of it. If you wanted a deal on new webOS phone or don't need the 32GB version, you don't get anything... oh and this "deal" expires at the end of the month.
If you couldn't tell I wasn't happy with that offer. On one hand, I have to appreciate the effort to turn a negative into a positive. On the other other hand, I think enough people saw through the trick that HP lost even more goodwill with the deal than if they simply didn't offer it at all. I think it should be studied in business schools for decades. (It deserved its own article here, but hey, I can't devote too many articles to the HP webOS, right?)
Next, I decided to look around and see if I could buy a Touchpad cheaper than the retail prices of $499 and $599 that it launched at just 28 days ago. After a couple of weeks, Amazon offered a $489 and $579 prices, a small savings. Today, I've noticed that you can save $50 on each on Amazon putting them at $449 and $549. I could stack that $50 from the deal above (because I still have my Palm Pre) and get those prices for $449 and $499. It's pretty nice to save $100 in less than a month on a product.
However, I've recently been looking on Ebay for HP Touchpads and I've seen new 16GB go for as low as $380 and 32GB go for as low as $415 - both listed as brand new. Those are bare bottom prices (as of the last few days), but I think with a little patience you may be able to get close to those percentage - maybe pay 5% more to get it quicker if necessary.
At $380, the HP Touchpad is getting pretty tempting for me. As with most larger purchases, I'm going to let this sit and stew a bit, maybe revisit next month. Perhaps a back-to-school special or the cheaper prices on Amazon will cause a trickle effect on Ebay.
What do you think? Do you have a tablet? Do you use it? Let me know in the comments.
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