Now that HP's brief foray in the tablet market has reached an anticlimactic conclusion, the vultures are circling the now-discontinued WebOS-powered TouchPad. Android fans are looking to breathe new life in the TouchPad with a port of Google's platform, while Microsoft is dangling a cache of goodies to lure WebOS developers to Windows Phone 7. Meanwhile, HP wants us to believe it can still wring value out of its mobile platform, just not on mobile devices.
A team of developers of RootzWiki have announced the launch of a project called Touchdroid, a port of Android that can run on the TouchPad. The group's plan is to first build the platform on Gingerbread. From there, project leader Thomas Somers says the team will continue to provide bug fixes for the Gingerbread smartphone build while beginning work on a full Honeycomb tablet port -- unless the dual smartphone-tablet Ice Cream Sandwich comes out in time to work with instead.
Ambitious though the undertaking may be, it's tough to view it as little more than a desperate and possibly misguided attempt to keep a DOA hardware platform on life support. Such a project would require plunking down licensing fees for Android, and what's the payoff? Not many TouchPads are out there as it is, and none are forthcoming, so the platform won't find its way onto any new machines. People who want an Android device would eschew purchasing Touchdroid because it will likely be incapable of providing the type of user experience you'd get from a true Android tablet.
Meanwhile, the poor souls who do own TouchPads, whether bought at retail price (you can still get some of your cash back) or at a bargain-bin price thanks to TouchPad fire sales, are at best going to have that poor man's Android device, which will see no apps and no useful updates.
Further, the TouchPad project could prove a juicy target for the major platform vendors out there that are laying claim to patents within Android. A cease-and-desist letter from, say, Oracle, could stop this sort of endeavor in its tracks.
In the vein of no apps nor updates for WebOS, Microsoft is aiming to benefit from HP's failed tablet experiment: Brandon Watson, Microsoft's senior director of Windows Phone 7 development, made the following offer on Twitter last week: "To Any Published WebOS Devs: We'll give you what you need to be successful on WindowsPhone, incl. free phones, dev tools, and training, etc."
Watson claimed today that he has received emails from some 1,000 WebOS developers expressing interest in the proposal. Whether freebies and promises of support will actually sway burned WebOS developers to Microsoft's troubled mobile platform remains to be seen.
To hear HP tell it, though, WebOS still has a future, by golly. HP's WebOS chief Steven DeWitt went on record as saying that the company will license out the Palm-built mobile OS to other hardware vendors. "The WebOS is not dead," he said. "We're going to continue to evolve it, update and support it. We stand by it."
HP's assurance that it stands by its mobile platform is tough to swallow, given that the company is killing off the TouchPad, along with its Pre and Pixi smartphones -- after loudly and repeatedly standing by them for a year. If the company can't figure out what to do with a platform for which it paid a large chunk of change ($1.2 billion plus hundreds of millions in development, fire-sale losses, not to mentioned bad PR), it's tough to imagine other hardware vendors embracing it -- especially when there are clearly more viable alternatives out there.
At best, WebOS might find a niche in printers and PCs, according to HP via VentureBeat, but it's not going to be a competitor to Android, iOS -- or even WP7.
This story, "Android fans join Microsoft in picking at TouchPad's carcass," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.