HP cuts TouchPad price to $399; price war?

HP has permanently cut the price of its low-end TouchPad to $399, making the tablet a competitive buy in a market of similarly configured $499 tablets from first-tier vendors Motorola, Samsung, and Apple.

HP said today that the $399 price cut is permanent.
HP said today that the $399 price cut is permanent. Hewlett-Packard

HP has permanently cut the price on its low-end TouchPad price to $399 as it seeks to stand out in a crowded tablet market.

The 16GB TouchPad had been cut briefly from $499 to $399 over the weekend at various resellers. But that drop is permanent now, as HP's Web site clearly shows.

The company confirmed this today. "HP continually evaluates pricing for its products and is pleased to permanently extend its back-to-school promotion on the HP TouchPad," the company said in a statement. "Now consumers can have all the benefits of webOS--multitasking, Synergy, Just Type, and access to the thousands of apps in the App Catalog for $399 (16GB) and $499 (32GB)."

Will this ignite a price war? That remains to be seen, of course, as leading Android tablet players Motorola and Samsung continue to sell their entry-level 16GB Wi-Fi models for $499.

But price cuts from the largest players may be inevitable. "You know this was eventually going to happen because there are so many players entering the market at the same time," said Richard Shim, an analyst at DisplaySearch. "And it's the same market opportunity. That is, whatever remains in the market after Apple takes its share. And price is the only advantage these other players have early on."

Acer cut its low-end Iconia Tablet from $449 to $395 earlier this month. And Asus didn't need to cut its price at all, as it launched the Eee Pad Transformer at $399. All of these tablets have 10-inch displays and run Google's Honeycomb operating system.

HP's webOS-based TouchPad sports a 9.7-inch 1,024x768 screen using IPS technology for a wide viewing angle, a 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon dual-core processor, and a front-facing 1.3-megapixel camera, among other features.

Update, 3:56 p.m. PT: to add comment from DisplaySearch analyst Richard Shim.

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