What Did HP’s TouchPad Fire Sale Do To The Australian Tablet Market?

All the TouchPads are gone, gone, gone. So what happens in the Australian tablet market now?

More: - Where Will All The TouchPads Go? - Will HP’s TouchPad Be $98 From 2pm Today? - The $98 TouchPad: It's Chaos At Harvey Norman Right Now! - Where Will All The TouchPads Go? To eBay, Of Course Fewer than 6000 people got their hands on a cheap TouchPad yesterday. I say fewer without access to specific figures, but if the comments across the articles that ran yesterday are any indication, some stores were sticking to the one-per-customer-rule with rigidity, while others allowed customers to buy them seemingly by the dozen.

What does this do to all future Tablet sales? It’s probably good news for Apple, who get to retain premium status with the iPad 2, while those vendors whose tablets are priced pretty much identically to the iPad 2 -- which is to say, most of them -- look even more expensive. Sure, it’s annoying that scalpers pounced on TouchPads and are now looking to get $200-$400 on them on eBay, but even at that price they’re a solid tablet for the money.

Equally, the vendors of actual budget Tablets -- Huawei, Kogan and ZTC being the most obvious examples -- will be in a tough position. Cheap tablets have been able to get by on the price rather than the features they offer. After all, if it’s under $300, does it matter if it’s not an iPad? It does now, because while the scalpers might be morally dubious, if the choice is between something with a bodgy resistive screen or older, non-upgradeable version of Android and the really rather good screen and speakers of the TouchPad for the same money, even if it’s second-hand, savvy buyers will have a quandary on their hands.

I doubt that the fire sales will put much of a fire under HP to revitalise the WebOS brand. HP will have lost a lot of money on the TouchPad, and it'd be a brave CEO who'd face the shareholders and offer to lose even more. Equally, the low numbers of folks who flocked for a dirt cheap TouchPad aren’t likely to energise the WebOS developer community much to speak of.

On the very minor side, yesterday would have been a lousy day to duck into Harvey Norman at lunchtime for some printer cartridges, or even a light browse, as my own experience showed. I’ve got to wonder -- if HP’s footing the bill for Harvey’s cheap TouchPad sell-off, will it also be reimbursing for lost sales, because there’s no way that anything other than a TouchPad (or TouchPad accessory) sold in Harvey Norman stores yesterday afternoon.

What do you think? Did the TouchPad fire sale show off a desire for cheap tablets in the Aussie marketplace, or was it just opportunistic bargain hunting?