If you’re the lucky owner of a rare 2011 TouchPad, the onus is on you to keep it clean, polished and updated. Sure, you’ve already got a decent Twitter client in the form Spaz HD, and you’re getting extra snappy performance from webOS 3.0.4, but web chatter indicates that something even better could be on the horizon. Developers have started tweeting via ‘webOS Synergy’, possibly hinting that integrated Twitter could be on the way in 3.0.5. What’s more, another TouchPad owner running that newfangled version has submitted an impressive score to Lithium BenchMark, suggesting it might deliver a performance bump too. The platform may be dead, but the dream lives on.
Ever since HP killed off the TouchPad and Pre line of smartphones, the company has been facing rumors that WebOS is on the chopping block. too. The latest reports say the company will decide the fate of webOS in November, however, the company has been rumored to be mulling a decision on webOS for the last few weeks.
This past weekend, HP attempted to put any rumors regarding a webOS shutdown to bed. Executive Vice President Todd Bradley spoke to Bloomberg on Saturday about the company’s plans for its personal systems group. HP just last week decided that it would not be spinning off or selling its PSG unit following weeks of speculation as to what the company would do with that part of its business. During the interview, Emily Chang asked Bradley about webOS.
“I think tablets, and specifically WebOS, have very unique capabilities,” Bradley responded. “You know, what we did was stop making WebOS tablets. We’re continuing to invest in WebOS software — in fact last week we refreshed with an update of that software for the over one million users that have WebOS products today. So our next focus now that we’ve resolved the question surrounding the PC business is to determine how we’ll best utilize WebOS and the great software assets that we have.”
When asked directly what we should make of reports that HP is considering shutting webOS down completely, Bradley said there was no truth to the reports:
“I think you should make of [the report of a WebOS shutdown] as an unfounded rumor. Our focus with WebOS is how we effectively utilize that phenomenal software and that phenomenal talent we have in that piece of our business.”
HP CEO Meg Whitman said last week that the company will make a decision on webOS within the next couple of months. Bradley says when it comes to the future of the operating system, he’s determined to gather all the appropriate information and data to ensure the company makes the right decision.
On October 4, failed California Gubernatorial Candidate and newly installed Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman said that she would ‘decide the fate’ of the company’s PC division before month’s end. At that time, HP’s original plan to sell the division had already been scaled back to a spin-off and as October draws to a close, it appears that HP intends to spare PC division after all. Not all is well for the beleaguered department; the Guardian reported Friday that though HP will no longer jettison PC, they’re going to kill webOS.
WebOS, acquired in 2010 when HP purchased Palm for 1.2 billion, is the operating system behind the TouchPad tablet. TouchPad’s notorious failure was a factor in the company’s flirtation with getting rid of their PC division, and it was unlikely to survive regardless of that decision. Attempts to attract interested buyers – Amazon was rumored to have been courted – failed, all but sealing webOS’ fate. One HP employee told the Guardian earlier that “There’s a 95% chance we all get laid off between now and November.” Still, the end of webOS means the loss of up to 500 jobs and the scary prospect of finding work in a tech industry battered by the worst recession since the 1930s.
Could the writing have already been on the wall for webOS when former VP of worldwide developer relations Richard Kerris left HP for Nokia this week? While nothing is yet confirmed, The Guardian is now reporting that HP will indeed finally shut down its webOS division, which could affect up to 500 jobs. That word comes from some unnamed internal HP sources, who reportedly expect an “imminent closure,” with one employee adding that “there’s a 95% chance we all get laid off between now and November.” For its part, HP remained noticeably mum on any news about webOS when it announced that it would hang onto its PC business this week, and its decision to use Windows 8 on tablets certainly didn’t do much to inspire the webOS faithful.
Believe it or not, but there are still people at HP working on webOS, which is quite amazing given the uncertainty for the future. There’s still a lot of love for Palm’s mobile operating system, no doubt further kindled now that people so many people are enjoying its genius from the discounted Pre phones and TouchPad tablets.
Released today for the dying TouchPad is a fresh version of webOS, updating the outgoing 3.0.2 to the newly released 3.0.4.
“We have a big number of TouchPads out there, and we wanted to continue serving users and developers. We improved performance, added better support for the camera, made connectivity with non-HP phones possible, improved messaging, touched the UI in many places, etc,” Jaaksi wrote. “Also, we’ve got over 1000 applications available for TouchPad through Application Catalogue.”
The webOS team is also working on making things better for developers.
“We have also continued longer term architectural development for webOS. We are working hard around webKit and V8. Those are core engines for the whole webOS. The Enyo framework and developer tools are getting a lot of attention now,” Jaaksi continued. “We have also some very cool development around UI especially in the area of working with many task simultaneously, and using the table screen even more efficiently. The web development model, strong cloud integration, and a fluid and beautiful UI are the cornerstones of webOS.”
Tired of seeing TouchPad Android demos that you can’t quite get your hands on? Buck up buttercup, CyanogenMod 7.1.0′s unique flavour of Gingerbread has finally made its way to HP’s disowned slate; but beware — they’re calling this one the “lower your expectations” edition for a reason. A new video and forum update belabours the point that the alpha is an early, buggy build that is not intended for the general public. However, if you’re brave enough to install CyanogenMod anyway, you’ll wind up with a neat assortment of usable features, including multiboot support, ten-point multitouch, functional WiFi, camera support for video chat, limited GPU acceleration and a ton of other features that are either working now, or are near completion. The team says there are too many non-functional features to properly list at the moment, but advise brave testers to expect app incompatibility and poorly optimized power consumption. Ready to throw caution to the wind? Hit the source link below, as it’s chock full of cautionary tales, installation instructions, and download links.
Both HP and the Android developer community are trying to figure out how Android-based TouchPads were slipped into the distribution channels.
In August, a TouchPad tablet appeared on eBay running Google’s Android 2.2.1 “Froyo” OS. The device — which eventually sold for a meaty $1,425 USD — was supposedly from a Qualcomm collaborative project with HP, and even flashed “Qualcomm Innovation Center (QuIC)” when loading. (QuIC is a Qualcomm engineering subsidiary that optimizes open-source software for Qualcomm products.)
After the tablet appeared on eBay, reports of additional Android TouchPad tablets began to surface including one individual who came across a Froyo-based TouchPad and reportedly dumped a ROM to RootzWiki so that it could be reworked and installed by non hardware-hacker TouchPad owners. Meanwhile, during all this time, separate developer teams have been steadily working to port Android over to the tablet since its initial launch.
When news began to spread that HP may have shipped TouchPads with Android, the porting teams reached out to the company, asking for the source code — and the firmware that drives multi-touch and wireless functionality on the device — based on Android’s open source license. Phil Robb, director of HP’s open-source program office, responded to the developers claiming that not only did HP not authorize the distribution of Android on the TouchPad tablets, but that HP didn’t ship them in the first place, even by mistake.
“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,” Robb wrote. He went on to ask the Android developer community to provide any information they could offer that would help HP track down the individuals responsible for slipping the Android TouchPads into the distribution.
“Regarding your specific request for source code below, I must decline at the present time,” he added, seemingly confirming that an Android-based source code for the tablet does exist. “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.”
PC World reports that the teams porting Android to the device have also reached out to Qualcomm for the source code, but the company denied that the tablet was manufactured or distributed by Qualcomm Innovation Center. Unable to get help from HP and Qualcomm, the developers are now investigating the origins of the Android tablets: where they came from, and who loaded the Android OS.
Unnamed sources within HP are claiming that Amazon may purchase the remnants of Palm. The news arrives after HP kicked out former CEO Leo Apotheker and hired on Meg Whitman as a replacement, and just after Amazon revealed new Kindle devices including a 7-inch, Android-based Kindle Fire tablet.
According to the HP insider, there are a number of entities wanting to purchase what’s left of Palm, but apparently Amazon is the one closest to actually finalizing a deal. Currently it’s unknown if Amazon will be buying Palm’s hardware business, the webOS platform, or both. However HP wants to get rid of Palm “as soon as possible,” so it’s quite possible that HP will set up a fire sale similar to the weekend-only $99 TouchPad clearance for anyone willing to buy the former webOs/smartphone maker.
Sources also point out that former Palm CEO Jon Rubinstein currently holds a vague “product innovation” role at HP’s Personal Services Group, but also joined Amazon’s board late last year. There’s speculation that Amazon wants to get its hands on webOS so that it can spout Kindle tablets that don’t use Google’s Android OS, thus separating the Kindle brand from a sea of Android tablets flooding to the market. As it stands now, Amazon has customized “Gingerbread” on the Kindle Fire to the point that it’s nearly unrecognizable.
HP’s future in regards to webOS is somewhat mixed: some reports claim that the OS is on hold indefinitely, while others claim that HP plans to use webOS on other non-tablet, non-smartphone equipment. Back in July, Rubinstein even hinted to Amazon serving as a partner. There was no talk of selling off the software, but merely licensing the software out to other parties.
“We’d like a partner that would allow us to expand the webOS ecosystem,” he said in an interview. “There’s a variety of different sets of a characteristics to qualify as a good partner. I would say Amazon would certainly make a great partner, because they have a lot of characteristics that would help them expand the webOS ecosystem. As to whether there’s been discussions or not… that’s obviously not something I’m going to comment about.”
But if Amazon purchases what’s left of Palm — including the hardware and webOS — the online retailer will be in an excellent position to introduce Amazon smartphones. The company already has Amazon Wireless up and running in beta form, and what it really needs is its own branded smartphone, complete with exclusive hardware an software.
HP originally paid $1.2 billion for Palm back in 2010. By comparison, Amazon will undoubtedly pay next to nothing.
HP’s webOS division is having a tough time as of late. The company recently announced that it was axing its TouchPad and Pre line of tablets and smartphones and sold off all remaining stock in a huge fire sale. Since then, the future of webOS remains unclear. While HP said it would continue to develop webOS, it admitted that it was stopping development on webOS hardware. Today, HP confirmed that it’s trimming the fat in the webOS division.
“As communicated on August 18, HP will discontinue the development of webOS devices within the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2011, which ends Oct. 31, 2011,” the company told AllThingsD today. “As part of this decision, the webOS GBU is undergoing a reduction in workforce. Today’s actions are part of this initiative. During this time, we stand by our commitment to our webOS customers and will work to ensure that support and service for customers are not adversely affected. HP is exploring ways to leverage webOS software.”
HP has not specified how many people will lose their jobs but the number is rumored to be somewhere in the region of 500 people. AllThingsDigital cites sources close to the situation that say HP is preparing to lay off 525 people. HP has one final production run on TouchPads before it discontinues the development of webOS devices and winds down device operations within its fourth fiscal quarter.
HP’s webOS may just be the ideal tablet operating system to put Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android to shame, but then again it’s getting a permanently stagnant market, and well, Android’s here to save the day, great thing about being open source.
The CM Team has decided that your fire sale TouchPad may be better off running Android. You know, from a long-term perspective. All jesting aside, the crew has been pounding the pavement on a new (and vastly improved) CyanogenMod 7 for Android, with this build providing functional WiFi, access to the Android Market, audio (albeit a bit fast) and an operational accelerometer.
There’s no code being released just yet — the team’s still working to cull the aforesaid Hamsterdance effect — but you can catch a sneak peek of everything in action just above.