Developers Compete To Put Android On HP TouchPad

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Cheap discontinued HP TouchPads could run Android Gingerbread, if a community project takes off

Android developers are planning to put the Google operating system on HP’s discontinued TouchPad tablets, according to one online Wiki forum, while another site has offered $1,500 to anyone who succeeds in the task.

The ability to run Android would make the moribund HP TouchPads even better value – they are currently being sold from around £90 following HP’s decision last week to discontinue all its mobile devices. The TouchDroid project, announced on the Rootzwiki developer site, is only just getting started, but the prize money offerd by Hack N Mod could help stimulate it, and rival efforts.

Gingerbread first, Honeycomb later?

TouchDroid aims to be “as open as possible”, project leader Thomas Sohmers said on the TouchDroid site at RootzWiki, even though Google itself is keeping tight control on the most recent Android versions.

The TouchDroid group intends to put Android 2.3 Gingerbread on the TouchPad tablet first, as this is the most recent to have been released through the official channel of the Android open Source Project. After that, the team plans to move to the CM7 build, produced by Android modder Cyanogen.

After that, plans to get to the tablet-oriented Honeycomb (version 3) are vaguer. Google has not released the source code for Honeycomb, but has promised to open source the following version, Ice Cream Sandwich. TouchDroid seems likely to use whichever is the best route when it gets to that stage.

“If ICS is released before or during our development of the Honeycomb port, we will stop and begin work on ICS,” says Sohmers on the TouchDroid page.

Prize keeps it practical

The prize offered by Hack N Mod is in several parts and aims to produce a practial and usable Android version. There are separate prizes for a basic Android port ($450), as well as for adding features such as Wi-Fi, audio support, camera support and multi-touch, with the value mounting to $1,500 for anyone who does the whole lot, posts evidence, and releases the result as open source code with a user-friendly installer.

Hack N Mod welcome other sponsors and hopes to increase the prize money. So far, a $350 Wi-fi port prize has been offered by Tranformative Applications, a $100 multitouch prize by Storyboard Solutions, a $300 audio prize port by Linology Networks and a $300 camera port prize by Best Online Casinos.

We’d advise prospective purchasers not to get too hopeful of a quick result.  The approach here is developers exploring possibilities – and is in contrast to other ways to get Android apps on a non-Android tablet, such as the Android app player for RIM’s Playbook tablet – which assumes a long term future for the underlying operating system.

Which may be just as well for those missing out on a cheap TouchPad. All the shops we tried this morning had sold out.

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