It’s been about 6 weeks since HP decided to stop making webOS hardware, that date itself about 6 weeks after the launch of the first webOS tablet, the TouchPad. After that announcement, HP held a fire sale for the TouchPad at the ridiculously cheap price of 100$, or a quarter of normal retail. Needless to say, stores couldn’t keep them on the shelves and that fire sale probably did more to spread the use of webOS than anything up to that point. Just this week, Amazon — possibly due to the success of HP’s fire sale, — decided to release a 200$, 7″ Android tablet called the Kindle Fire; both the iPad and the TouchPad are 10″.
Interestingly, the Fire runs a forked version of Android 2.3 (a.k.a. Gingerbread). That version of Android, along all the other 2.x versions of it, was designed to run on a phone, not a tablet; the 3.x (a.k.a Honeycomb) versions of Android are the ones meant for tablets. So why did Amazon use the phone version of Android on their shiny new tablet? Because Google, ever the benevolent behemoth, has pledged to make Android open-source. And they kept that pledge through the 2.x versions of it, but announced that 3.x would not be made open source. However, 4.x (a.k.a Ice Cream Sandwich (if you haven’t figured it out, the code names are an alphabetical progression of sweets)) will merge the phone and tablet versions together and will be open sourced; but who knows when that’ll be.
In the meantime, Amazon did the best they could and took the most recent open-sourced version of Android (2.3), forked it from the Google-controlled repository so they had their own copy, tinkered with it and made it work on the Fire. But wouldn’t it be nice if they had a bonafide tablet operating system, designed for tablets? One that by the way, is actually nicer than Android? Well apparently some Amazon execs thought exactly that, because yesterday HP leaked that it was trying to sell webOS, that there were a few interested parties, and that Amazon was the closest to finalizing a deal.
Given Amazon’s commitment to random products like the Kindle and their deep interest in the tablet market, they would probably be the best thing that could happen to webOS — and might actually save it from the brink of doom. Although Amazon likely wouldn’t bring back webOS phones, it would at least be nice to see them create some valid competition to the iPad. Not to mention keeping alive the last vestige of the venerable Palm Inc., the first and most terribly managed mobile computing company, which nevertheless had some of the best designs and breakthroughs in the field.