A View from David Zax
A TouchPad Running Android?
Bought a TouchPad, but worried about a lack of WebOS support? Hackers are working to let you port over Android to the device instead.
So you got one of those $99 TouchPads. Congratulations. I’m jealous.
But wait. You just bought a tablet belonging to an ecosystem that is, if not outright dying, then at least obsolescent. The manufacturer has all but pulled the plug on that ecosystem–at least as far as smartphones and tablets are concerned. (Refrigerators are another matter.) What if you want that tablet to last you a couple years? What if you want to put new apps on it?
Teams of coders are coming to the rescue. Or at least, they’re trying to. They call themselves “Touchdroid,” and they’re a group of Android enthusiasts. They’re working on porting the Android system over to TouchPads, and if they succeed, you should be able to get a longer useful life out of that HP device you just bought. The team is led by a fellow named Thomas Sohmers, a self-professed “geek, inventor, and entrepreneur.” The guy is all of 15, and hasn’t graduated from high school yet, but he’s already an affiliate of MIT, according to his resume.
Though Touchdroid has the coolest name among those trying to port Android onto a TouchPad, it hasn’t had the most success, so far. That laurel goes to a team called CyanogenMod, as TechCrunch recently noted. The team, spurred on by the promise of prize money from a modding community called HackNMod, announced that they’d pulled off the feat. Or something like it, at least; they caution that what they’ve achieved is “highly alpha.”
When will it be ready for you to port onto your own TouchPad? I can’t tell you that, I’m afraid. Says the CyanogenMod team, “PLEASE DO NOT ASK FOR ETAS…we are motivated to do it right, not do it fast.”
There’s one melancholy footnote to this whole story. You may have scooped up that $99 TouchPad because it was a great deal for a tablet. But since playing around with it, you may have come to notice that WebOS itself is surprisingly elegant. Many a tech enthusiast has said so, bemoaning the fact that the operating system never really got a fair chance in the market.
CyanogenMod has a solution to that, too, though. “Our ultimate vision is to create a *multiboot* solution where the end user will be able to boot into WebOS, Cyanogenmod, and/or other OSes. This appears to be very possible,” they write in their ever-italicized announcement. To follow this story as it unfolds–or eventually get a Droid OS for your own TouchPad–you can monitor the situation over on the RootzWiki forums and this TouchDroid Wiki, where this conversation continues to unfold.