A product disaster which nearly caused the number one computer company in the world to get out of the computer business, toppled the company’s CEO, and was discontinued – has become the second fastest selling tablet from January to October of this year, according to a study released by The NPD Group today.

In a story that sounds more fiction that fact, HP launched the HP Touchpad on July 1, 2011,  to a mostly receptive market, but a poor economy. Price? $499 for the 16GB HP-Touchpadversion. $599 for the 32GB version. Positioned to compete against Apple’s iPad, the HP Touchpad faired poorly. Sales fell well below the company’s expectations.

Despite coupons and discounts, and with the price being lowered to $399 and $499 about a month after it was launched, the HP Touchpad still did not stir sales.

That’s when HP convulsed. Less than 7 weeks after the HP Touchpad was launched, HP announced it was discontinuing the Touchpad.  The company announced it was getting out of the PC business. And they decided to practically give the tablet away to get rid of existing stock, selling it for $99 and $149.

But the story didn’t end there. Leo Apotheke, the CEO of HP during the launch of the Touchpad, was tossed out by the company and replaced by Meg Whitman, former CEO of Ebay. Whitman announced that HP would not be quitting the PC business, but the Touchpad did keep its ‘discontinued’ status, though one final manufacturing run was completed.

In the meantime, consumers gobbled up all the available HP Touchpads within hours of the $99/$149 price drop. The second manufacturing run is in stores now, at the $99/$149 prices, with sales tempered by the requirement of having to buy other products (mostly HP laptops or PC’s) to qualify to purchase an HP Touchpad at the lowered pricing.

But the kicker to this story? After all the hoopla and the obvious disaster that the HP Touchpad was for HP – the final price drop spurred so many sales that the discontinued tablet became the second fastest selling tablet from January through October, 2011, right behind the Apple iPad, according to the NPD Group.

Of course, Amazon launched the Kindle Fire in October, so once those sales numbers are factored in, things could look very different.