I'm quickly developing a new, quantum theory for tablet computing. Just as it appears that subatomic particles behave differently depending on whether they're being observed, it seems that tablet consumers and sellers start to behave strangely whenever the price for a tablet drops below a hundred dollars, no matter how unappealing the slate was at a higher price only a month ago.
Since HP announced last month that it was discontinuing the TouchPad and other WebOS devices, and dropped the price of the tablet by 80 percent (that put it at $99 for the 16GB model), we've seen pandemonium in stores and at online retailers. We've also seen HP's social-media manager harassed, we've seen civil war among Android developers looking to port to the cheap tablets, and now Lando Calrissian has joined the fray.
Just as any online political argument eventually invokes comparisons to Nazi Germany, under my new theory of touch-screen relativity, any sudden gadget frenzy will continually accelerate until non sequitur "Star Wars" references emerge.
Today, the HP TouchPad raucous reached that pinnacle.
In a letter to customers who purchased a discounted TouchPad before the $99 fire sale started, Woot is offering up refunds and Jedi humor.
"A businessman gets a nice thing going, makes a deal he thinks will pay off--and everything changes and he's left holding the bag. Now we know what it feels like to be Lando Calrissian," reads a note from Woot to customers who purchased a TouchPad at the then-awesome price of $379 last month. If you're already lost, go watch "Empire" again and keep an eye out for Billy Dee Williams.
The letter from Woot goes on to notify customers who went for the deal that the Amazon-owned company would be crediting $100 back to make up for the bad timing. They also offered the option to return the tablets for a full refund. As a third choice, the e-mail suggests that customers could "dress up as a palace guard, sneak into some alien crime lord's fortress, and put some mystic revenge plan into motion."
Still confused? Better add "Return of the Jedi" to your viewing queue, too.
Woot also assured customers that they felt like "scruffy nerf herders" about the whole thing.
The last reference made me and likely countless other geeks chuckle, but may have left those poor souls who are non-conversant in the Lucasian dialect wondering why Woot is employing unshaven shepherds to manage their inventory of soft, spongy toys.
Of course, Woot could have avoided the whole thing with a simple disclaimer for potential TouchPad buyers--"These are not the (An)Droid (tablet)s you're looking for."