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HP Updates webOS, Lowers TouchPad Price: Is It Enough?

When PC giant Hewlett-Packard purchased beleaguered mobile OS maker Palm a year and a half ago for $1.2 billion, it was seen as a Hail Mary pass that would let HP control its own destiny with an Apple-like symbiosis of hardware and software. But with the first Palm-based webOS devices now in the market and underwhelming from a sales perspective, HP is modifying its strategy. And that includes a new round of webOS upgrades and price cuts for its poorly-selling TouchPad tablet.

The newly released 3.0.2 version of Palm webOS, which powers the TouchPad and various Palm smart phones, is available as a free, automatic, over-the-air update. It includes "performance and reliability enhancements, and also adds improved functionality to several core webOS apps," according to HP/Palm. These include faster performance in the Email app, the ability to set the wallpaper from the Photos app, layout improvements in the Calendar app, and other similar fit and finish type improvements. More details about this update can be found on HP's knowledge base portal.

The price cuts, while necessary and welcome, aren't dramatic. When HP unveiled the TouchPad earlier this summer, it offered two versions, a 16 GB unit for $500 and a 32 GB version for $550. Now, those same tablets are $50 less expensive, respectively, and finally undercut Apple's similarly configured iPad. Some retailers, like Amazon, often offer additional savings, so be sure to shop around if this is an option you're considering.

So far, the HP TouchPad hasn't ignited the type of sales frenzy that always accompanies an Apple hardware release. Otherwise, HP would have held the line on pricing. But early reviews of the TouchPad were decidedly mixed as well, and as I noted in a June blog post, the real issue with the TouchPad is that it can't match the rich ecosystem Apple is surrounding the iPad with. Until that happens, these competing devices will simply be also-rans. 

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