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Android on TouchPad team dealt a setback in their efforts

With the TouchPad's fire sale, which saw units selling for as little as $88 USD, the short-lived Hewlett-Packard Comp. (HPQ) webOS tablet is chic again.  Given that webOS, appears on its last legs in terms of support from HP, developers are rushing to port Google, Inc.'s (GOOG) Android OS to the device to extend its lifetime.

HP shipped several TouchPads mysteriously running an Android 2.2 "Froyo" kernel.  The Android porting teams reached out to HP inquiring about these units.  They argued that under Android's open source licens, HP must release the source code for these devices, including the firmware that drives multi-touch and wireless functionality on the device.

In its response, HP's Phil Robb, director of HP's open-source program office, claims ignorance of the Android build -- or at least feigns it.

But rather than leaving it at that, he goes on to say that HP is launching an investigation into how Android made its way onto those tablets.  He writes, "We presently believe that some person or persons unknown may have facilitated the delivery of these Android-based units strictly against the policy and authorization of HP."

"Regarding your specific request for source code below, I must decline at the present time. HP has never authorized the distribution of any binaries for Android in association with the HP Touchpad. Therefore, HP is not under any license obligation to provide any corresponding Android source code to you."

Mr. Robb requested any information on the devices, to help it track down who put the supposedly unauthorized Android build on them.

HP's comments seem to infer that component supplier Qualcomm, Inc. (QCOM) illegitimately and possibly illegally put the OS on the devices.  The Android-endowed units flash the logo QuIC, or Qualcomm Innovation Center, a Qualcomm engineering subsidiary that works on optimizing open-source software for Qualcomm and its partners' products.

TouchPad QuIC
[Source: YouTube]

But QuIC at least claims to be oblivious to where the units came from as well.  It sent a letter to developers denying that it manufactured or distributed the tablets in question.

Thus an interesting "Whodoneit?" mystery has emerged in the case of the Android TouchPads.  Hopefully the Android development team gets to the bottom of this.  

That said, HP's vows to "investigate" the incident feel a bit like beating a dead horse.  After all, HP essentially said loud and clear that it didn't care about TouchPad or webOS fans, when it discontinued the device and began laying off the webOS team.  So why would HP care if someone put Android on it?  

Sources: HP, PCWorld



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Android on a TouchPad, gasp
By Gavin Coles on 10/6/2011 11:46:02 AM , Rating: 2
It should not really be a surprise that HP have put Android on a TouchPad, only that it has got out in to the wild. The thing that would be a surprise is if anyone who has actually used webOS for any length of time would actually want to swap it for Android.




RE: Android on a TouchPad, gasp
By djc208 on 10/6/2011 12:00:37 PM , Rating: 3
I got one, and I will install Android when it becomes available, for two reasons:
1) I have an Android smart phone and apps already, so being able to use apps I'm familiar with and access the larger app store is a big draw.
2) As much as I like WebOS, it's about 90% finished. It's still buggy in places, very slow in others, and in general just lacking polish in a lot of areas. The Apps aren't much better in all, both the included and the market ones. I'd be willing to stick it out knowing these issues would evetually be fixed, but they won't. So why get frustrated with an "almost" that will never improve?


RE: Android on a TouchPad, gasp
By Makaveli on 10/6/2011 2:18:47 PM , Rating: 2
I'm one of those Touchpad user and very happy with WEB OS and not certain that I will put android on it. I'm more curious about the ARM version of windows 8.


RE: Android on a TouchPad, gasp
By Fritzr on 10/6/2011 10:20:21 PM , Rating: 2
HP's response actually implies that there is an Android port that was being tested internally & the tablets with Android installed are trade secrets that were disposed of without permission.

If that is the case who is legally responsible for giving the source code to the proud owners of tablets that shipped with Android pre-installed? Is it HP corporate who considered them a 'trade secret' for internal R&D or the unknown individuals who put them in boxes and shipped them out without permission?

Yes, the Android license requires source code to be made available IF the OS was legally released. That said. What are the legal requirements under the license if the OS is ILLEGALLY released?


RE: Android on a TouchPad, gasp
By vol7ron on 10/10/2011 8:20:15 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
the Android license requires source code to be made available IF the OS was legally released. That said. What are the legal requirements under the license if the OS is ILLEGALLY released?


Are you really not familiar with corporate strategy and US courtrooms? There are no legal requirements, Google can file suit and they'd have a lot of evidence to prove it, especially with all these now public statements.

I don't think Google is after that though, they're after the intellectual property associated with HPs touch and wireless interfaces. To my knowledge, such interfaces are separate from the OS source code.


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