The Vice-President of HP's newly-formed Palm Business Unit signed the contract. The first stroke of the pen was a hesitant one, but the last stroke was determined and triumphant.
The Devil looked the papers over and then, when he was satisfied that all was in order, he pocketed the contract with mock-solemnity.
"Then we have a deal. I will have your eternal soul when you die," he said, carelessly brushing some soot from the sleeves of his coat. He said it as though he could hardly have cared less about one more tech executive's soul cluttering up his filing cabinet.
"And exactly as you asked," he continued, smiling, "people all over the US, acting as though with a single thought on the same day, will be eager to purchase your TouchPad. They will count down the minutes to visit the appropriate stores and websites. Most of them will find that it's listed as 'sold out' at every retailer they visit and they'll be very, very disappointed because so many people, even iPad advocates, had eagerly recommended that they take advantage of the opportunity. I shall fulfill all of these terms to the very letter. It's been a pleasure doing business with you."
The Devil decided that the middle of a bank of bookcases in the man's office would make a fine spot for an exit. He made a door appear and then he used it.
On July 2, cases of champagne remained stacked and unopened in the Palm Business Unit's conference room. The vice-president eyed them with an increasing chill.
I didn't specify that this should happen at launch day, he thought. I bet the Devil will make all of that huge success happen when we ship the 4G model at the end of the summer. That must be it. Everybody knows how fantastic the new faster hardware with integrated mobile broadband is going to be. They're just waiting, that's all. Everything's fine.
He heard the flapping of wings and looked to the window in time to see a raven landing on the ledge outside. It smoothed its feathers carelessly and made a cackling sound that was both completely natural and creepily familiar to the executive, as a sheaf of sales reports fluttered from his limp hand...
(Postscript: reports from various sources indicate that if you're a student or educator, you'll have luck getting a $99 TouchPad directly from HP.com. Even better...it qualifies for educational discounts on top of that price.)