Since the day the iPad was announced, I’ve told you that there was nothing special about it. Oh sure, it looks great, but I’ll say now as I said then: the iPad isn’t really anything more than a huge iPod Touch.

Don’t get me wrong: I may hate the way Apple does business, but they put out some great looking, easy to use products. In fact, that description applies to pretty much everything the monster from Cupertino has ever produced. And as I’ve told you, while I now mostly listen to music using my Droid, when I buy an MP3 player it’s always an iPod.

And now that Hewlett Packard has bowed out of the tablet market, dropping their previously-$500 TouchPad to just $100 to liquidate inventory, we have the proof: Nobody actually loves the iPad enough to make it “matter” to anyone but Appleholics.

Apple, of course, probably sees it differently: Hewlett Packard must be admitting that they can’t get people to buy enough TouchPads to challenge the iPad for supremacy in the tablet market. And that’s true. But only because the price was too high. At the right price, people will happily buy a tablet other than an iPad.

This matters. It’s one of those business-change-right-in-front-of-your-eyes-that-you-might-have-missed issues.

This is a Tool vs. Toy conversation.

I see tablet computers as tools. Presumably, all those people who went out and scored a $100 Hewlett Packard TouchPad see this the same way; if you want a TOY, and can afford it, you pay what the toy costs. Would you buy a GI Jerry with Feng Shui Grip because it was “close enough” to GI Joe with Kung Fu Grip? Of course not.

But when the toy becomes a TOOL your criteria change. Maybe at $100 you can make a tool out of this thing that Apple and the iPad had previously convinced you was just a toy—and if the tool turns out to be unworthy of the task you had in mind at least you didn’t blow $500 on something that’s just going to gather dust.

The business change that matters is this: the HP TouchPad fire sale has proven that tablets can be tools. The question is whether Apple is going to respond in a way that finally makes the iPad something other than a toy.

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