The HP TouchPad tablet isn’t quite dead yet. An over-the-air software update to webOS version 3.0.4 was released on Tuesday by HP, bringing improved performance, new features and a way to use the tablet for phone calls. HP TouchPad owners can immediately download and install the free update directly from the tablet.
The official HP Palm blog outlines the details of the update, explaining that users should see a performance boost, some user interface updates and accelerometer support in Adobe Flash Player software, as well as better Skype calling, which is integrated directly into webOS. A new Camera application is also added for photos and video from the tablet’s front-facing camera sensor. Messaging gains online/offline presence support and the slate can now play Ogg Vorbis music files.
Unlike Research in Motion’s PlayBook tablet, which essentially requires a BlackBerry handset for e-mail and other phone activities, HP is wisely opening up the TouchPad to non-webOS handsets to a point. The software update brings support for pairing other smartphones with the tablet, enabling owners to take phone calls directly on the TouchPad. When a call comes in on the smartphone, the tablet can be used to answer the call over a wireless Bluetooth connection.
With HP pulling the plug on new webOS hardware — there won’t be any more webOS phones or tablets from HP — it’s comforting to see the company continuing support for the devices already sold. The once $499 tablet was offered through a $99 fire-sale that hundreds of thousands took advantage of. And HP has recently told me via email that some developers have seen a tenfold uptick in application downloads.
So while the product line was ended not long after it began, the ecosystem is still alive and kicking. That’s good for those who bought a TouchPad as well as for webOS developers who can still make some money for their efforts.