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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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This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

By Zirconium on 10/7/2011 1:10:38 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I think he's arguing that it's ridiculous to assert that you can open-source something while still enforcing arbitrary conditions about how people use it (and also that it's ridiculous to call any code that includes terms and conditions of use "free" or "open").


I don't think that's what his point was; he was trying to point out how open source software's conditions were bad for business. Those Ts&Cs can be onerous, particularly if a company doesn't want to release code that could give it an advantage over competitors. The point I was making was that no one is twisting anyone's arm to use GPL code, and that there is a reason that corporations still go after code with such licenses.

Now, your point appears that it is ridiculous to call GPL-like licenses free and open. I can see your argument; the GPL does enforce certain conditions on developers and distributors. However, these conditions are to prevent you from closing your additions to GPL code. Someone did you a favor - they released their source code freely, meaning you have the ability to alter and redistribute it. All they ask is that if you use it, you release your additions and improvements with the same conditions. It seems antisocial to demand otherwise.

quote:
They did not agree to your conditions prior to being given access to the code, so by rights you should have no leverage for enforcing that your terms are followed. If you wanted your terms to be followed, then you should have secured explicit agreement to them *before* you gave the person access to your code.


Good thing you aren't a lawyer. Extending your logic, any time I do not agree to conditions before accessing copyright material, I can do with it as I wish. Hey, check it out, I found an audio CD without a case! Well, I see no Ts&Cs, therefore I can redistribute this all I want! Oh look, I downloaded this program from a company's web site. Looks like I can decompile it, alter it to remove these pesky dialogs that prevent me from using it before inputing what appears to be a hexadecimal string, and then redistribute that!

As you can see, the real world doesn't work that way.


“So far we have not seen a single Android device that does not infringe on our patents." -- Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith














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