Ubuntu Linux and Android Could Give HP's TouchPad New Life

HP's ill-fated TouchPad may be a hot commodity now that it's being offered at fire-sale prices, but those lucky enough to get their hands on one could soon find themselves with more choices than they ever imagined.

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WebOS is the operating system that comes preloaded on the device, of course, and I maintain hope that that Linux-based operating system will be picked up and continued by another company, preferably in open source form.

For those concerned about WebOS's fate or even just its relative paucity of apps, however, two new possibilities have just emerged. First, it's already possible to get Ubuntu Linux up and running on the device, and second, a project is now in the works to port Android over as well.

The Ubuntu Option

On the Ubuntu side, instructions have already been posted on Liliputing for installing Ubuntu Linux on the TouchPad alongside its existing WebOS operating system. Basically, it sounds like you're creating a dual-boot scenario so that you can choose which to run.

PreWare, Palm Novacom, Xecutah and Ubuntu 11.04 CHroot are all part of the process, which is reportedly not for the faint of heart. Nevertheless, the end result is a command-line version of Ubuntu Linux that can be used with apt-get install to install various Ubuntu software packages.

While not all Ubuntu apps will work on the TouchPad because of its ARM-based processor, Firefox, Chromium and LibreOffice are among those that do, according to Liliputing's report.

An Android Alternative

Aiming to get Android up and running on HP's device, meanwhile, are several hacker efforts, including the nascent Touchdroid project on RootzWiki.

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Developers involved in Touchdroid plan first to use Android 2.3 Gingerbread and be AOSP-based; once they're able to successfully boot Android, they plan to move to a CM7 base. Honeycomb and Ice Cream Sandwich versions will follow from there, the developers explained.

Still unclear on this end is whether Android will replace WebOS or be a dual-boot option as in the Ubuntu solution.

Meanwhile, at least one bounty has been separately offered up to the developer who gets Android working on the HP TouchPad.

Manufacturers, Take Note

However these two alternate platforms for the TouchPad play out, it's exciting to see three Linux-based operating systems vying to run on HP's discontinued hardware.

I really hope other tablet manufacturers are paying attention. If ever there was proof that there's plenty of demand for an inexpensive, Linux-based tablet option, this is it.

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