egzthunder1 · Sep 24, 2011 at 06:00 pm

Congratulations HP! You Broke the Code (GPL,That Is)!

There were tons of mixed emotions when HP returned to the mobile scene with their latest installment by their newly acquired partner in crime, Palm. The HP Touchpad, which comes loaded with webOS may appeal to some people due to certain features such as the $99 price tag that it came with. However, the biggest reason to try and get one of these was the fact that devs world wide decided to join efforts and get rid of webOS and slap Android on top of the slate device. The project seems to be progressing rather well, so well in fact that it seems that some Touchpads have begun shipping to customers loaded with Android. According to a link provided to us by XDA Senior Moderator pulser_g2, the few Touchpads that did ship out with Android, did so with a modified Linux kernel, with changes that are not documented or recorded anywhere. Now, if you are new to Android this will likely mean little to you, but the thing is that Android is governed under several regulations that ensures that the open source project stays open and transparent for anyone who would like to become part of it. By not disclosing full kernel sources, HP has broken GPL (General Public Licensing), which is the part that governs the kernels (not the Android OS but the kernels).

HP’s comments are that the devices are supposed to ship with webOS, but several people have already reported receiving devices loaded with Android. Now, in case you are wondering, HP stating that their devices should only ship with webOS means that they do have Linux kernels floating around but they simply will not admit it. One thing that I personally found funny in the original article, for which you can find a link in the bottom of this article, is how the people from HPalm not only claim that this shouldn’t be loaded with Android but also went as far as reminding/threatening the person getting in touch with them regarding this that if he did load Android in his TP, he would void the warranty. Was that absolutely necessary, HP? The community is coming at you with a concern on a matter that can be easily fixed without involving anyone in a legal department, yet your official response to whomever wrote to you letting you know that you made a mistake is “get out of here”.  Believe me when I tell you that we are all well aware of the possible implications that involve flashing a device and we are also aware that our warranties fly out the window when we do. So, instead of shielding yourselves behind meaningless threats to us, why don’t you do something more productive with your e-mail to your customers like asking for a Serial Number so that you can verify what shipped and most importantly with what.

I will let you go with a small reminder. Other manufacturers before you have made mistakes in the past as well in their devices. Most of them realized that aside from the general public, we (developer sites) are the ones that have taken the mobile industry to what it is today. We would likely all be using iPhones right now if it would have been otherwise. I suggest that you listen to your customers, particularly if they are devs when they come at you with potential really serious mistakes like this one. You have been warned about this and now it is your turn to take some action.

HP distributed modified Linux kernel as part of the Android that shipped on at 
least three units (location is known, users requested the source from HP - confirmed). 
This is a clear GPL violation on HP part, so hopefully we can pursue on this.

You can find more information here.

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Thanks pulser_g2 for the tip!


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egzthunder1

egzthunder1 is an editor on XDA-Developers, the largest community for Android users. I have been an active member of xda-developers since 2005 and have gone through various roles in my time here. I am Former Portal Administrator, and currently part of the administrator team while maintaining my writer status for the portal. In real life, I am a Chemical Engineer turned Realtor in the Miami area. View egzthunder1's posts and articles here.
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