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Android on TouchPad team splits into two efforts

The effort to port the Android OS onto the HP TouchPad appears to have splintered into two teams, as allegations stir a brief civil war.

Screen capture by Eric Mack/CNET

The effort to port the Android operating system onto the HP TouchPad seems to have splintered into two separate teams after a brief but nasty civil war that included name-calling and allegations of theft.

HP's WebOS tablet recently became a hot commodity following the company's announcement that it was discontinuing the tablet, and liquidation pricing as low as $99--or 80 percent off--led to lines at Best Buys and ubiquitous "out of stock" pages at online retailers.

Earlier this week, a project emerged on the RootzWiki forums with the goal of putting Android on the TouchPad. A simple post listed a handful of team leaders and the goal of first porting the Gingerbread version of Android, followed by Honeycomb and/or Ice Cream Sandwich (once it's released). Now just a few days later, the author of that post--15-year-old Thomas Sohmers--is striking out on his own.

The series of events and discussions that led to the split is a bit muddy, but the decisive moment seems to be an article published online Wednesday by PC Magazine. In it, Sohmers accuses one of the other team leads of soliciting donations for the project and using the funds to buy TouchPads that he then resold for a profit. CNET contacted the team member, who goes by the Twitter handle @Rhcp, via direct message, but did not hear back. However, @Rhcp has denied the allegations in a forum posting.

Screen capture by Eric Mack/CNET

CNET did speak to Jacob Bell, who describes himself as founder of the TouchDroid project and appears to have control over its e-mail account and Web page. Bell is 19, works for a software services company in New Jersey, and is an active member of the Android community under the handle ProTekk. Bell says the allegations against Rhcp are false, and that he opened up his PayPal account to other members of the team. "His PayPal is clear. There's no suspicious transactions...no money is missing," he tells CNET in a phone conversation, "That money is all going to be refunded back to the original donors."

Bell says the project will not be taking donations moving forward.

CNET e-mailed Thomas Sohmers, and he says he stands by the allegations he made about @Rhcp to PC Magazine, but did not respond to a request to explain what evidence he had to back up the claims.

Sohmers and Bell did both agree on two things--that Sohmers did have a hand in getting TouchDroid rolling, and that they'll both now be working separately with different teams. Bell and a host of other coders, including Rhcp, will be continuing TouchDroid, and Sohmers is now calling his project "AndroTouch."

Sohmers posted a link to the "system dump" file for Android FroYo on Thursday--basically the raw code of the OS and the first step to developing a flashable ROM that could be used on the TouchPad. Bell says his team will also be working with the same data to develop a ROM, but he said he preferred not to guess as to when one might be complete.

"Whenever we get anything substantial that works, we'll announce it," says Bell. "And if you can help, we're more than willing to take the help."

He says his group might even be willing to work with Sohmers' AndroTouch team again--"maybe if they came to us in a mature manner...but right now we have who we need."