HP's eReader will be available on campuses this summer.

Blackboard Inc.’s Mobile Central application, released this month on more than 100 college campuses, will be usable on Hewlett Packard’s TouchPad, an eReader device that could gain traction in higher education almost a year after the Apple iPad first proved popular with faculty and students.

Students and educators who use HP smart phones – powered by the webOS mobile operating system — will also be able to use Blackboard’s Mobile Central application, which offers access to campus news, course catalogs, maps, event calendars, and a campus directory that students can use to eMail or call fellow students or professors from the application itself.

Students can use the Mobile Central application to access their campus library and locate books and articles. The app also will give students directions to the library and give contact information for the campus librarian.

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The app’s map feature gives access to bus schedules and lets students track buses in real time, according to Blackboard. A student also can see parking lots and garages and how many spaces are remaining in each.

For freshmen new to campus, the Mobile Central app offers interactive, self-guided tours.

Blackboard’s latest app allows campus technologists to customize the program with school insignias and colors, according to the company’s Feb. 17 announcement.

The inclusion of HP smart phones and the TouchPad tablet makes the Mobile Central app accessible on every major mobile platform, including Blackberry, Android, iPhone, iPod touch, and iOS.

Access to the application is free for campuses that already use Mobile Central, and students can download it for free from a range of web-based app stores, according to Blackboard.

Michael Barrett, chief information officer at Florida State University, said students, faculty, and staff who used a smart phone or tablet that operated with webOS would now be able to join peers and colleagues who own iPhones, BlackBerries, and Android phones.

“With these new platforms available, an even larger part of the Florida State community can stay connected,” Barrett said.

HP makes seven smart phones, with two more – the Pre3 and Veer – set to launch this spring and summer, according to the HP website.

HP plans to unveil its TouchPad this summer, more than a year after many in higher education embraced the Apple iPad as the first viable web-ready eReader tablet.

The 9.7-inch HP TouchPad will have a multi-touch screen and a virtual keyboard and wireless internet connectivity.

The tablet will weigh about 1.6 pounds and come in versions of 16GB and 32GB and have a rechargeable battery similar to the iPad, according to HP. The battery will be rechargeable wirelessly.


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