Microsoft mounts campaign to win webOS developers
Race for cut-price TouchPads shows there is a real market for low cost Linux tablets
Published: 23 August, 2011
Hewlett-Packard's decision to quit the mobile market may be perfect timing for Microsoft, which is just about to release the Mango upgrade to WP7 and has mounted a campaign to win webOS developers.
Combined with efforts to woo Android supporters who may be nervous about Google's plans for Motorola, the WP7 team has a busy few months ahead, but it has lost no time in targeting webOS refugees. It has announced a program to offer these developers free handsets, software tools and training in return for creating new WP7 applications.
Brandon Watson, Microsoft's senior director of WP7 development, launched the offer via Twitter, saying: "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 said he received over 500 enquiries before the day was out, and was connecting interested developers to a "Windows Phone 7 champion" within his team.
Amid predictable anger among the webOS community about the suddenness with which their platform was dumped, many were discussing Android as the logical place to port their wares, since it is also Linux-based. Another option was emerging as Ubuntu Linux, at least for the tablet oriented apps. As consumers raced to buy the discontinued TouchPads, being sold off for $100 in the US, many were compensating for the dead end (and shortage of apps) of its preloaded webOS, and installing Ubuntu Linux as a dual-boot OS (instructions on Liliputing.com). However, not all the Ubuntu apps will run because of the tablet's ARM-based processor, but users can get Firefox, Chromium, LibreOffice and others.
There are also plans by various hacker groups, such as the new Touchdroid project on RootzWiki, to create an Android version for the TouchPad. Such projects may just be niche activities for an orphan tablet, but they prove a wider point - while HP, and others, are struggling in the new form factor by trying to go head-to-head with the iPad, there really is a thriving consumer demand for a low cost, Linux slate.