Earlier this month, Hewlett-Packard surprised just about everyone by announcing it would shutter its tablet and mobile phone businesses, and spin off its PC branch to focus on business software. A fire sale of HP's remaining stock of TouchPad tablets ensued and, with their price slashed from $399 to as little as $99, the tablets were more popular in death than they'd ever been in life, selling out on a number of websites. Now, HP says the TouchPad might not be so dead after all. Here, a brief guide:

What's happening?
HP will produce one final run of TouchPads. "We don't know exactly when these units will be available or how many we'll get, and we can't promise we'll have enough for everyone. We do know that it will be at least a few weeks before you can purchase," said HP on its website. Meanwhile, Todd Bradley, executive vice president of HP's Personal Systems Group, hinted in a Reuters interview that the TouchPad could also return again in the future — though perhaps in a different form.

How much will HP sell its last TouchPads for?
That's unclear. But at $99 a pop, the company would take a loss on each TouchPad sold. It's estimated that the more expensive 32 GB model (as opposed to 16 GB) has a material cost of $318. It originally sold for $599, but its price was slashed to $149 in the fire sale. "When you factor in manufacturing and shipping/distribution costs, all HP is doing is cutting its losses — while starving everyone else in the anti-iPad market of what little oxygen remains by offering a device with features and at a price competitors can't conceivably match," says Jonny Evans at Computerworld.

When will they be available?
HP isn't giving any specific dates, but the final production run will likely take place during the fourth fiscal quarter of the year, which ends on October 31.

Why is HP doing this?
The company isn't saying. Some suspect that HP wants to exploit the surprising demand to use up the many parts still lying around in its factories.

Will other tablet makers slash prices?
Maybe. If "non-iPad tablet-making competitors thought things were bad already, HP's low-cost giveaway move made things worse," says Evans. This could start a price war on all the unwanted non-iPad tablets just in time for holiday shopping. But here's a juicier question, says Chris Richardson in The Christian Science Monitor. "Will Apple have to counter with a drastic price reduction of their iPad in October? This could get interesting."

Sources: Christian Science Monitor, Computerworld, Guardian, HP, Reuters (2),