Hewlett Packard announced that it was discontinuing all of its WebOS devices last Thursday, while simultaneously dropping the price of its TouchPad tablet to $99. As FasterForward blogger Hayley Tsukayama reported:

The TouchPad is selling out after HP announced that it’s going to discontinue it and all WebOS devices on Thursday.

The company has dropped the price of the tablet to $99.99 from its heavily discounted retail price of $399 for the 16GB version and $499 for the 32 GB version. The tablet originally debuted on July 1, starting at $499.

The tablet is completely sold out on HP’s Web site, and Best Buy stores — which had reportedly been sitting on a huge stockpile of the devices — have been cleaned out of their stock over the weekend.

HP and Best Buy have both said they will do a price match for any early adopters who got the TouchPad before the deep discount.

HP spokeswoman Marlene Somsak said the company isn’t going to release any more HP WebOS products, but will sell through any that have already shipped.

So, thanks to the fire sale and the magical $99 price point, the listing for the TouchPad on HP’s Web site says what the company could only have dreamed of a few weeks ago: “Out of stock. Please check back soon.”

A rush of demand for the reduced-price tablet soon left the shelves of Staples and Best Buy empty as shoppers rushed to fill online orders before supplies ran out. As BlogPost’s Melissa Bell explained:

The feeding frenzy around the HP TouchPads seems insatiable, but it may be reaching its own conclusion: electronic goods stores have sold out of the product. Best Buy says the company is sold out online and in stores, while Staples has been tweeting customers that it no longer has the hot tech product.

The HP TouchPad has been available for months, but only in the last few days has it become the must-have tech product. It became must-have only after HP decided it must get rid of it. HP said it would discontinue the tablet. Seemingly to get rid of back stock, the price was reduced to $99.

And get rid of it, they did. Since prices dropped on Thursday, the product jumped off shelves. So much so that it’s now selling on eBay for prices between $250-$300.

The mad dash for tablets seems to have caught retailers by surprise, with not nearly enough stock to meet the demand. Best Buy discontinued sales on Monday, saying its stock was wiped out. It made an about-face the same day saying it would limit sales to one per customer. Now that offer is gone. Even the Hewlett Packard site is out of stock.

The great TouchPad run may be reaching the finish line.

Chris Zeilger told us why he picked up the discontinued tablet and in this review :

I’ll admit, I was drawn to the allure of an ultra-cheap TouchPad just the same as everyone else; I ordered one off of HP’s site on Friday evening. But the decision process behind my purchase gnawed at me all weekend. I’ve used a TouchPad and I didn’t really like it — I found it fat, slow, and buggy, even with the webOS 3.0.2 update applied. And besides, I already own an iPad 2… yet, for some inexplicable reason, I can confidently say without hesitation that I’d buy the $99.99 TouchPad all over again if given the opportunity. But why? Are others in the same boat?

I wanted to break it down to the nuts and bolts: what’s the psychology behind our decision to clear store shelves of TouchPads in the past couple days? And just as importantly, is there a critical lesson for tablet (and, closely related, smartphone) manufacturers to learn here? Can you take a page out of the old video game console playbook and brute-force your platform into relevance by simply taking an extraordinary loss upfront?

To try to get to the bottom of the phenomenon, I polled my Twitter followers, asking for TouchPad fire sale buyers to email me. In turn, I asked the respondents — over 50 in total — a few questions. Here’s what I learned.

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