"After HP announced it would discontinue production of its TouchPad tablet last week, it looked like early HP tablet adopters spent $500 on a dud. If you're an enterprising software hacker, however, there could be an opportunity to make your money back - and then some.
A hardware-modification web site is offering a $1,500 cash bounty for the first person to successfully port a full version of the Android operating system over to HP's TouchPad.
Hacknmod.com offers a tiered bounty system for would-be TouchPad hackers: Just getting Android to run on the TouchPad without taking full advantage of the tablet's hardware will win you a cool $450. But the more you're able to integrate the system software into the device, the more cash you'll earn. Get the Wi-Fi, multitouch capability, audio and camera up and running, and you'll add another $1,050 to the pot.
While the bounty is characteristic of the Android-modding crowd which basically wants to slap Android onto anything with a circuit board and touch screen, it's also an admirable effort to breathe new life into a dying piece of hardware. After reports of dismal sales and third-party retailers sitting on hundreds of thousands of unsold TouchPads, HP decided to kill production after a mere 49 days on the market.
It was bad news for current TouchPad owners. No more HP hardware gives little incentive for webOS app developers to continue producing applications for the platform. In turn, TouchPad owners miss out on the latest popular applications to come to mobile devices. And of course, it gives potential customers no incentive to buy the remaining TouchPads retailers have in stock, costing HP and retail stores hundreds of millions of dollars. Everyone loses.
But if the porting plans work, it could mean bringing a slew of Android apps over to HP's tablet. If the TouchPad can be made capable of running thousands of Android apps, the device may not be obsolete.
This isn't the first time the Android-modification community tried to port the operating system over to non-Android devices. Android modders have run the operating system on Barnes And Noble's Nook Color e-reader, certain Nokia smartphones and even an iPhone.
If you don't want to go it alone, Android-modification-enthusiast site RootzWiki created a team specifically to work on porting Android over to the TouchPad, christened the TouchDroid team. The plan is to get Android version 2.3 (Gingerbread) up and running, then install a version of CyanogenMod, the most popular modification software available for Android devices. Eventually, the team wants to get Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) onto the TouchPad, Google's tablet-optimized version of the software. The coders will post updates to a thread on a message board devoted to Android development on the TouchPad.
All of the Android hacking mania raises the question: If all you want is an Android tablet, why not just go out and buy one?
First, you may be able to get a TouchPad for even less than you would a proper Android tablet. HP, Best Buy and some U.K. retailers slashed prices on their TouchPad inventories over the weekend, dropping the price as low as $100. Sales skyrocketed, and the TouchPad reached the top of the electronics sales charts on Amazon.com. Android tablets that boast hardware similar to the TouchPad average $400 to $500.
Second, the future of webOS is unclear. HP says it will continue to support the operating system despite discontinuing its tablet, but that doesn't necessarily mean we'll see tablet-optimized updates to webOS in the future. And of course, HP could sell off the operating system for its patents to a competitor like Google or Apple, which would all but secure the system's demise.
Most important, hackers hack because they can. Android was built using open source software principles, a favorite of the modification community that codes for the fun of it. If you propose the challenge of running an operating system on a piece of foreign hardware, expect the DIY community to take you up on it.
If nothing else, do it for the money." - Gadget Lab
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