A lot of HP TouchPad buyers probably got their hearts broken after HP announced its plans to spin off its PC business and drop support for webOS altogether. This sparked a handful of price drops, with the TouchPad retailing for firesale prices as low as $99 in most online stores and retail establishments. But with the TouchPad selling like hotcakes -- and running out of stock before you can say "touchpad" -- this can actually be a good opportunity for developers to resurrect the platform.
RIP WebOS; What About the TouchPad?
The TouchPad iteration of HP's (and formerly Palm's) webOS is now considered DoA, despite showing promise in terms of hardware and software capability. After all, who would want to buy a device that doesn't have a bright future in terms of official support and developer ecosystem? But recent developments in the smartphone and tablet hacking scene might just be the magic bullet that HP's TouchPad needs.
Developers responsible for the custom CyanogenMod custom Android implementation are working on porting Google's Android operating system to the TouchPad. Another team is working on porting Ubuntu Linux to the same hardware. Once either of these launches, the TouchPad would become more valuable than its current $99 street price. After all, $99 gets you an Android device running on high-end hardware. This certainly opens up possibilities, particularly when you compare the size of the webOS ecosystem (a few thousand apps) to Android's (about half a million).
Resurrection Through Community-Driven OSes
The proposed custom firmware will take roots from the Android Open Source Project, which is Google's own publicly available reference for building an Android device from scratch. Called the Touchdroid project, the initiative involves porting Gingerbread (2.3) to the TouchPad, through a CyanogenMod 7 base. The team will then work on a full Honeycomb (3.x) port, as well as an Ice Cream Sandwich (2.4 or 4.0) port, once available.
Meanwhile, the developers working on the Ubuntu Linux port have succeeded at installing this Linux flavor and are now working on tweaks. Are we ready to see a production release soon?
The excitement here stems from the fact that these are two active ecosystems with development coming from both official and community sources. Neither Android nor Ubuntu Linux are dying out anytime soon. The question would be whether these efforts will be enough to resurrect the HP TouchPad as a viable platform for users and developers alike. Will the TouchPad be the $99 Android device that could? Even if the iPad was said to have killed the TouchPad, a $99 TouchPad running Android might be able to compete with the iPad head-on.
At $99, it's already considered the best tablet in that price range. What if the TouchPad can give users a choice of operating systems? The TouchPad may have just become more valuable than HP ever imagined.