The lucky people who managed to buy a US$99 TouchPad before they sold out just got luckier: A group of developers is working on a way to load Android onto the tablets.
Hewlett-Packard said last week it would stop making the TouchPad and that it was exploring options for the webOS software that runs on the device. It has also dropped the price of the 16GB TouchPad to $99, making it one of the best tablet deals around.
Still, people who bought it took a risk, since it’s not clear if HP will continue to develop the operating system. That risk may now pay off since the TouchPad could become the best-value Android tablet.
Three developers and other supporters have launched the TouchDroid project and plan to soon begin porting an older version of Android, known as Gingerbread, to the tablets.
“So you’ve plunked down your $99/$149, and you’re staring at that WebOS screen… Welcome to a grand effort to port Android to the HP Touchpad,” they wrote on a wiki page about the project.
The group is having to start its work with Gingerbread because Google has not released the source code for Honeycomb, the version of Android for tablets that first became available on the Motorola Xoom in February. Once Ice Cream Sandwich, the next version of Android, becomes available, they’ll focus on that version of the OS, according to the wiki site.
The developers said there’s no way to know how long it will be before they can release a working version of Android for the tablet. “Figure this will take a good long while. Keep your expectations very low and for now enjoy WebOS,” the site says.
Further complicating the initiative, some of the developers don’t yet have TouchPads.
“Until all of the #touchdroid developers receive their devices, project development will be very slow or at a standstill this week,” according to the HPTouchDroid Twitter feed.
Companies including Best Buy, CompUSA, Staples, CDW and Circuit City say they have sold out of Touchpads online, and in some cases in stores too.
Best Buy wrote in a forum Sunday that it had completely sold out of TouchPads and that it would not be receiving any more. Amazon lists some TouchPads for sale, at higher prices than $99 and from little-known retailers.
On Monday, HP said interest in the TouchPad was so high that it was having trouble keeping a website about the product online. “The amount of traffic to the TouchPad availability page is causing issues,” HP said via its main Twitter page.
The website currently says: “Due to the significant price reduction, we experienced overwhelming demand for the product and are temporarily out of inventory.”
More units are on the way, however. HP Social Media Manager Bryna Corcoran said via Twitter that the company was restocking. “No more being made, but have inventory coming from ones already manufactured,” she wrote.
Nancy Gohring covers mobile phones and cloud computing for The IDG News Service. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @idgnancy. Nancy’s e-mail address is Nancy_Gohring@idg.com