HP TouchPad with Android?

Now that HP has discontinued the HP TouchPad tablet (and sold off most of the remaining inventory at fire sale prices), hackers are trying to figure out how to port Google Android and other operating systems to run on the tablet. Sure, webOS is nice and all, but there’s no guarantee that HP will continue to support the operating system.

There’s already more than $2000 worth of prize money for the first person or team to port Android to the tablet — but it looks like developers may not have to start from scratch. A few days ago one guy bought a cheap TouchPad from Best Buy and noticed that it wasn’t running webOS — it was already running Google Android 2.2 Froyo.

While some folks are convinced this is a hoax, there’s mounting evidence that it’s the real deal. And by evidence, I mean the tablet owner’s colleague keeps posting videos to YouTube which certainly seem to show the tablet running Froyo.

It’s not clear exactly how this happened. Perhaps someone at Qualcomm loaded Android for testing purposes and accidentally released that tablet into the wild. Maybe it was someone at HP or the OEM that’s actually manufacturing the tablet. Or maybe it is all a hoax — but even if it is, it provides a good look at what Android would look like on a TouchPad tablet.

It looks like the plan for now is to send the tablet to one of the developers at Android Central so they can inspect the software and try to figure out how to install Android on other tablets.

Update: The system dump has been released, which should help developers working to port Android to the TouchPad.

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8 replies on “This is what Android looks like on the HP TouchPad”

    1. Look at all the videos, too much trouble to time syncing finger touches with a video to pretend to have Android installed.

  1. “There’s no guarantee that HP will continue to support the operating system.”

    What a stupid reason. You do know that a hacked-on Android is definitely going to be unsupported, right? Right, retardo?

    1. But it will be community supported. While there’s an active community of independent webOS developers, the Android community is even larger.

      Also — if HP continues to develop webOS, we may eventually see software updates, but given the company’s recent actions it’s not clear that this will happen.

      On the other hand, every time Google releases a new version of Android hackers figure out how to get it onto hardware that doesn’t officially support it. That’s whey we’ve seen Android 2.3 and even Android 3.0 ported to the HTC Dream — the first Android phone ever released, even though HTC stopped offering software updates for that model ages ago.

      In other words, installing Android on an HP TouchPad gives you some confidence that you’ll be able to continue using new software and new features in years to come — plus there are already hundreds of thousands of apps available for Android while there are far fewer for webOS.

      With HP discontinuing support for webOS hardware and with the operating system’s future on the rocks, it’s not clear that developers will ever fill the gap — why write apps for a dying platform?

      1. Brad…You’re not a developer.  There are subtleties and difficulties associated with developing for embedded platforms that you seem to be missing.

        You wrote your comment with a consumer-grade viewpoint, and I bet a lot of consumers convince themselves to make ill advised product commitments on the basis of such misguided self-justification.  However, it’s just wrong.  

        “But it will be community supported. While there’s an active community of independent webOS developers, the Android community is even larger.”

        This means nothing.  The size of the community is not very relevant, and sometimes lots of developers can be a hindrance.  In fact, what you think of as “developers” aren’t really developers.  Some are, but most are just glorified code maintainers trying to preserve a particular experience by curating a project.  Even then, size doesn’t matter.  For example, the Linux kernel itself is maintained by VERY few developers (I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but look it up).  I think few people would argue that Linux is not well supported or would claim that another operating system must be better because it has more developers on the job.  That just doesn’t resonate with the reality of this kind of work.

        Moreover, you need to give yourself a reality check about what the Android “developer” community looks like.  Most of your “developers” lurking around projects and hanging out on forums are just enthusiast-takers.  Almost none are contributing anything to Android, and very few are actual contributing to the maintenance of their projects’ source code repositories.  Some in the perceived community are nothing more than eager testers or early adopters.  Most are just following what’s going on and waiting to be served with a final, stable, turn-key solution by those doing the actual work.

        At the end of the day, if you’re relying on the goodwill of others to support your particular , very closed, hardware with a multi-platform piece of software, then you’re in the most precarious position in which you could possible be.  I think you’re going to need some breadcrumbs to follow this trail, so let me emphasize that last statement in case you fumbled my hint: People who buy the touchpad shouldn’t be worried about whether or not Android is “better supported” (by either a really good definition of what that means or a really terrible, consumer-grade one) than WebOS but rather whether the TOUCHPAD will be better supported by WebOS or Android.

        “Also — if HP continues to develop webOS, we may eventually see software updates, but given the company’s recent actions it’s not clear that this will happen.”

        Let me check my calendar for the date…Does anybody think that Android supports the touchpad better than WebOS right now?  If they do, then I would avoid ALL of their subsequent comments about computing just to be on the safe side.  Most people, sadly, don’t even care about the idea of longterm support because their devices, and all of the things they do with them, are just disposables in their lives.  In contrast, if you really want SOLID long term support, then you should neither be considering Android nor WebOS because both are ultimately proprietary, embedded operating systems.  The reality of vertically integrated systems is that outdated or divergent hardware need to be left behind in order to keep system’s complexity down and stability up.  Your old hardware isn’t welcome, which is why Apple kicks all of its users in the face every 5 to 10 years and makes the buy new stuff.  For a company deploying a vertically integrated system, it’s about efficiency.  For the one selling it, it’s about profit.

        Abandoned development of an operating system is always a concern for proprietary solutions.  This is true of any operating system, and especially true of those targeted to embedded hardware platforms.  There’s more to say about this, but you set it up much better than I could with your next comment.

        “On the other hand, every time Google releases a new version of Android hackers figure out how to get it onto hardware that doesn’t officially support it. That’s whey we’ve seen Android 2.3 and even Android 3.0 ported to the HTC Dream — the first Android phone ever released, even though HTC stopped offering software updates for that model ages ago.”

        Ugh…  This is what most people just don’t get.  You seem to be lost at this point, unaware of the fact that the primary genius that has lead to the computing era we all enjoy today was the separation of hardware from software.  The community doesn’t support hardware.  You don’t believe me, but I know if I repeat it enough times it will be true to you because I know that people are more sensitive to marketing messages than truths.  So here it goes:

        (Catchy Jingle.  Attractive Spokesperson.  Ironic imagery…) The community doesn’t support hardware. The community doesn’t support hardware. The community doesn’t support hardware.  Fun and cool!!! (just for psychological effect)

        Seriously, communities can support OPEN software.  I can patch a bug, close a vulnerability, or add a feature.  Communities can support people.  I can advise you on what to download, how to install it, or how to unbrick your device.  Communities can’t support CLOSED hardware.  The hardware in embedded platforms is almost always supported by proprietary drivers exclusively which means no open alternatives.  What am I to do?  Steal a binary blog?  That’s almost all there is to say on the issue.  It’s like buying a house that has the furnace, water heat, circuit breaker, etc. installed in the basement but the basement is locked and there’s no way of getting into it and changing anything.  No fixes.  No upgrades.  You make it sound like this is comparable to Windows or Linux in which you can go grab whatever version of the OS you want and install it on whatever hardware you got.  It’s not.  Supporting embedded hardware is difficult, which is why Microsoft got away from it and only certain flavors of Linux (most of which are proprietary distributions) even try to support select platforms.

        I don’t want to caution you against giving advice, but I would urge you to consider your position as one running a website and the weight you might carry to somebody who trusts what you say about embedded hardware because you run a website.  I would attach the following warning label on your comment.  THE HARDWARE IS NOT SUPPORTED BY ANDROID.  IT CAN’T BE SUPPORTED BY DEVELOPERS, BUT SOME ARE STUFFING VERSIONS OF ANDROID ONTO IT.  HOWEVER, THEY ARE SIMPLY DELAYING THE INEVITABLE.  YOUR HARDWARE WILL BECOME USELESS WHEN THOSE DEVELOPERS MOVE ON TO BETTER HARDWARE, WHICH THEY WILL DO.  FURTHERMORE, THERE IS NO REASON RO BELIEVE THAT ANDROID TODAY WILL BE BETTER ON THE HARDWARE THAN WEBOS TODAY, OR THAT ANDROID IN THE FUTURE WILL EVER BECOME BETTER THAN A NEVER UPDATED WEBOS.

        “In other words, installing Android on an HP TouchPad gives you some confidence that you’ll be able to continue using new software and new features in years to come — plus there are already hundreds of thousands of apps available for Android while there are far fewer for webOS.”

        Not only is this not true, but it overlooks the fact that in its current state, WebOS is the higher quality Linux based operating system, and it works better on the Touchpad than does Android.  Once again, this “years of improvements” comments is bizarre.  Which Android developers “in the community” have the rights to distribute proprietary hardware drivers?  Intel can’t even do that, and they build such hardware right into the Atom platform.

        “With HP discontinuing support for webOS hardware and with the operating system’s future on the rocks, it’s not clear that developers will ever fill the gap — why write apps for a dying platform?”

        Well, I can’t argue with that.  Of course, by not writing apps you are probably killing the platform, so there is a smear of insincerity here.  Ultimately, you need to buy into an embedded platform because of what it can do for you today, because the future is out of your hands.  That is the reality of vertical integration.  Do you really think people stand in line for the iJunk because of what it will be like to use in 3 years, or that the touchpad keeps selling out because of its bright future?

        That said, the present of WebOS on the touchpad is clearly better than the present of Android and probably better than Android’s future on it as well.  What would be superior to either is a legitimate, free, open source operating system, but it’s the hardware that relies on closed source drivers which makes that nearly impossible.  Debian is my operating system of choice and probably runs on more kinds of devices than any other operating system ever.  However, it can’t make too much headway on embedded platforms bound up with proprietary nonsense like the touchpad.  It’s odd that you think a few Android hackers are more reliable and capable than all of that.

        1. Let’s not exaggerate either way.  Brad is mostly coming at this from the viewpoint of this being a potential bargain for those who managed to get the TouchPad at the discounted price and the potential for it to be a tech toy.

          You’re right about the reality of the mobile market and issues with hardware support.  It’s one of the most annoying issues with ARM devices and a clear downside to its market strategy, which also extends to the apps as many have to be optimized for the hardware and unless that hardware is currently being used by the newest supported systems then support is dropped and it becomes hit or miss whether an app will work.

          However, they hardly have to make the TouchPad all it could potentially be and they don’t have to keep it up forever either.

          WebOS does have more potential than Android but that doesn’t mean it was necessary the best OS for the Touch Pad. Since the OS wasn’t fully optimized for the TouchPad hardward, and it’s one of the reasons why they managed to get WebOS to run twice as fast on a iPad2. It was even reported that at least some of the WebOS developers wanted the TouchPad gone because it hampered the OS.

          HP apparently didn’t choose the right hardware for WebOS to run properly, but that doesn’t mean another OS won’t run better on the same hardware.

          Like we know there are other Qualcomm Snapdragon Smart Phones using similar hardware as the TouchPad but with Android.  Not to mention Qualcomms own efforts to get Android working on a prototype tablet platform.

          So it’s not impossible that they might be able to get a port of Android to work better than WebOS.  But even if they don’t it only has to work and doesn’t necessarily have to be all that fast.

          People who want performance will have to shell out for a new high end system if that’s what they really want.  The HP TouchPad for many is just a low cost solution to hold them over, and/or tech toy to play with for now, and the main reason to port Android is just because it gives access to more apps and more people are familiar with it than WebOS.  It’s just also a reality not all of them will work even if they get Android working properly.

          So eventually they’ll all move on to better products.

        2. You are missing a big point.

          Most people who root their phones, port android over, etc. don’t do it get access to better support.
          It can be due to a variety of reasons, including more control over the operating system, faster performance, or even just to prove that they can do it.

          There is a certain degree of knowledge that goes with rooting. Those who root either know what they are doing, or have been sufficiently warned before hand that if something messes up, it’s at least partially their fault. Above all, there should be no expectation of official support, as it is common knowledge that rooting is not officially supported.

          But knowing this, many people still root their phones. Is it wrong to try to gain more features on their devices? Is it wrong to try to port Android over to the touchpad because they prefer Android over WebOS?

          Like you said, “the primary genius that has lead to the computing era we all enjoy today was the separation of hardware from software.” Part of that separation of hardware from software gives rise to the ability to install different operating systems on your devices, whether they are officially supported or not. It allows me to install ubuntu on my machine, custom roms on phones, and possibly android on the touchpad.

          What is great about modern computing era is the ability, to a large extent, to install whatever software you want. While users still don’t have much room in customizing hardware to match their needs, at least they have more flexibility in tailoring the software running on OEM hardware to match their taste. There is always risk associated with unofficial modifications, but at least we have the option to take the risk and try to improve our devices rather than to just sit there and wish that we never bought that damn device in the first place.

        3. including brad, your view point is good but seem a bit over subjective to most users or consumers like me. evey people is balancing the cost and benefits on any consumer behavior. there is nothing purely right or wrong decision in long term. especially talking about technology. i am no regret of buying my first pc 386dx in 90s. you know, not all people can afford the best os tablet pc as you think worthwhile. however, i would rather listen to a creative idea of buying a cheap HP with a alternative OS and then make my choice. anyway, i learnt that pls to not judge people using your view. those who buy hp now are not stupid. at least they will learn and seek to ways to save money. leastly, i guess this discussion will be not meaningful after few months from now. we better save our time to enjoy life and with our family and friends !

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