It would be an irony of ironies. Hewlett-Packard's TouchPad tablet, which was promoted at its launch a few weeks ago in large part because of its webOS platform, and then discontinued late last week for lack of sales, has become a hit product that may soon run Android.
Centered on the Rootz Wiki forum, a group of programmers is looking to create what they call the TouchDroid. The group wants to initially get Android 2.3, Gingerbread, running on the TouchPad, and then begin working on a port for Android 3.0, Honeycomb, the first Android version designed specifically for tablets.
The group is gathering fans at an "Android on TouchPad" page on Facebook.
$250 to $300 on eBay
On July 1, HP started selling the TouchPad, which is based on the webOS platform that the company acquired when it bought Palm last year for $1.2 billion. The initial TouchPad price was $499 for the 16GB version and $599 for the 32GB.
Last week, Best Buy reportedly was looking to return to HP its unused inventory of TouchPads, given that the electronics retailer apparently had only sold 25,000, at most, of its 270,000 units. HP resisted taking them back, and began discounting the product.
Then last Thursday, HP said it was discontinuing all its webOS-based hardware by the fourth quarter. Over the weekend, TouchPads then were discounted to $99 for the 16GB and $149 for the 32GB -- and almost immediately sold out at the HP website, Staples and Best Buy. In fact, it's so much in demand that units have seen selling for $250 to $300 on eBay.
Company executives said the software side of the webOS platform is not being shut down. HP has said it is looking to license webOS for appliances, cars and other devices, and, at one time, the company had high hopes the platform would be available on all HP products.
Aside from not having a hardware base anymore, webOS does not have many applications specifically written for it. However, the webOS Software Development Kit uses WebKit, the browser-layout engine that is also used in Android, Apple's iOS, and Research In Motion's PlayBook tablet. Developers can use the SDK to create cross-platform apps that run on all three.
The Second Coming of TouchPad?
So the saga of the TouchPad has the kind of narrative arc that could someday make a great script. HP couldn't give it away as a webOS device, it sold like hotcakes once it was discontinued, with the price drop it has become a much sought-after item, it may be revived as an Android tablet, and the SDK could become a popular cross-platform authoring tool.
If that happens, will HP revive the product line as an Android device, or sell it to someone who will?
The only major platform that doesn't use WebKit is Microsoft's Windows Phone 7, and that company has wasted no time trying to convert webOS developers into Phone 7 developers. The day after HP announced the product line was ending, a Microsoft executive issued an offer via Twitter of free phones, tools and training to webOS developers to create apps for Microsoft's struggling platform.
Posted: 2011-08-24 @ 10:55am PT
WebOS may fall by the wayside as other better technologies have. This is due to lack of marketing vision. I am not sure how many of you know HP was to introduce a 64GB dual core 1.5ghz model next week in the US. (I happen to have one) the better performance larger storage device could have found a place in the market but once again WebOS suffered from a Marketing disaster. I could see HP licesning the WebOS to whoever manufactures the current TP and earning revenue without the overhead. HP seems to lack the ability to build their hardware and sell it at a reasonable profit. So why not license it and try to recover the $$$ lost in this adventure?
Posted: 2011-08-23 @ 5:32pm PT
WebOs is just stunning I would like to see it developed in the future.
Posted: 2011-08-23 @ 5:17pm PT
If HP had a lick of sense (which we already know it doesn't), they'd take advantage of this by converting the TouchPad to Android itself, reviving the line as a TouchDroid, and selling only online at a price point that gives them minimal profit per sale. (Can you do 8 gigs at $150 and 16 at $200? The chinese can, why not HP?)
This is the real iPad killer, and it all would have happened by accident. It would be this decade's answer to the Coke Classic debacle, which ended up increasing Coke's sales.
Posted: 2011-08-23 @ 4:54pm PT
Even though I get why you would want to, I still can't stomach the idea of android on a touchpad. Honeycomb is just ugly as sin.
Posted: 2011-08-23 @ 2:50pm PT
I have an Android phone, Evo 4g, and I'd prefer Web OS over it any day. I purchased an HP Touchpad and I love it.