Right about the time that HP ran its now legendary TouchPad fire sale, a few lucky customers received TouchPads inexplicably running Android. Apparently the PC manufacturer had been testing Gingerbread builds on its tablet (which runs Palm's WebOS natively). As a show of solidarity to the development community, HP has now released the source code for its own internal version of the Android kernel to the CyanogenMod team. CyanogenMod maintains the most popular TouchPad Android port, CyanogenMod 7 Gingerbread, as well as the new CM9 Ice Cream Sandwich. You can read all the juicy details over at RootzWiki.
Giving away the kernel source is in addition to moving the entire WebOS software platform to an open source model, granting HP some very real cred with aftermarket developers and modders. Though the supply of retail TouchPads is now effectively zero, it's still one of the most popular tablets out there for bargain hunters and techies. While not a supertablet by any means (it's roughly the equal of the original iPad as far as specs go) it makes a fine start for Android enthusiasts looking to try out the tablet form factor.
What can the CyanogenMod team do with HP's help? For starters, they'll probably use the kernel to iron out some of the most consistent problems in their custom Gingerbread and Ice Cream Sandwich builds, including HD video and camera issues. Past that, they should be able to make changes to CPU and memory handling for a smoother and more stable experience - not that the ROMs are particularly bad now. The Gingerbread ROM is currently at the Alpha 3.5 stage, while the ICS ROM is still on Alpha .6. Adventurous modders can flash the ROMs without affecting their current WebOS partitions.