Best Buy joins the mass of retailers offering dirt-cheap HP TouchPads, the fate of webOS patents and BYTE Wireless Radio patent war special with Florian Mueller.

Gina Smith, Contributor

August 21, 2011

4 Min Read

The global firesale of Hewlett-Packard's just-killed HP TouchPad continues in full force. Even retailer Best Buy, which forcefully asked HP to relieve it of dead stock just a few days ago, started selling HP TouchPads at rock-bottom prices on Sunday.

In doing so, Best Buy joins dozens of retailers and sites that early Saturday began selling HP TouchPads at $99 and $149 for its 16GB and 32GB versions, respectively, touching off a weekend tablet-buying frenzy.

Best Buy is charging $100 and up for the devices, limiting customers to one Wifi-only TouchPad per person and says it isn't offering refunds or accepting returns. It's tough love but a great bargain for people who just want a dirt-cheap tablet to play with -- and one that's based on webOS. Support for the now-discontinued HP TouchPad will continue via HP's one-year warranty plan.

I'm watching to see what prices HP's Palm Pre and Veer phones will go for in future firesales. And I wonder what services, if any, will support them. I'd love to see someone purchase these phones and, with webOS, turn this whole mess into a thriving, open platform ecosystem that will draw developers. A lot of folks still love webOS, which HP inherited when it bought Palm last year for $1.2B.

Speaking of webOS, HP holds an extensive 2,000-plus patent portfolio it might easily sell or license. Filed over the years by such webOS pioneering inventors as Shervin Pishevar, many of these patents appear deep and broad on BYTE's initial investigation. One filed by Pishevar and partners, held now by HP, for example covers mobile web operating systems' ability to work with servers in a client/server distributed computing relationship. Watch BYTE for perspective from IP experts as more details emerge.

Here's our interview with IP specialist Florian Mueller on the latest episode of BYTE Wireless Radio, our short-format podcast that digs deep into weekly news. Fritz Nelson, Craig Johnston and I host.

Patent wars are bad news for customers -- legal fees get passed along to buyers, plus legal issues delay innovation and might even kill certain platform designs entirely.

Just check out the image below. That's how bad the patent wars have become. Maybe the webOS patent portfolio, if purchased by a big player, could force a stalemate and stop the madness.

Source: Reuters

An aside: Robert Scoble on Sunday did the math and figures HP could recoup its Palm acquisition costs with just the sale of its webOS patents alone. I agree.

Watch BYTE this week for our analysis on what HP is holding and how the patents, if purchased, should play into your product buying decisions in the weeks and months to come.

Also in today's news, AT&T's new mobile texting plan is officially in effect. Unless you're grandfathered in -- meaning you signed up for the old, $10 per 1,000 deal before today -- you now have two choices: pay 20 cents per text or $20 per 1,000 texts.

Android malware continues to make news around the Web. As we reported, a recent customer survey from Retrevo shows Android users aren't prepared. Compared to other mobile users, they don't sufficiently protect their Android smartphones and tablets, the survey shows.

That's alarming considering the spread of Android malware like GingerMaster, which apparently uses the root exploit for Android's Gingerbread OS powering many an Android-based phone. The malware lets attackers take control of your phone. Brian Burgess has more on this. Speaking of smarphones, RIM began shipping various new smartphones this weekend. There's an upgrade to the popular BlackBerry Torch 9800, the Torch 9810. It costs $50 with a new two-year AT&T contract, AT&T officials said. The phone is running the latest BlackBerry OS release, OS 7.

Finally, have you noticed the Google+ hangouts option on YouTube yet? Google now has officially rolled that out, as promised by Google-owned YouTube a few weeks ago.

There's now an icon under most YouTube videos inviting you to start a Google+ streaming Hangout to share with friends. Google+ YouTube video sharing is bound to be a big differentiator for the social network, and it's just the beginning.

Live video event-sharing via hangouts is the direction Google + execs say they're heading. That plays just as well for members wanting to watch a live concert or family wedding with select Google+ members as it does for Google+ for Business.

If Google implements this securely and to standards, imagine the implications. For sure, Google + continues to polish up the business version of its service in coming weeks and months.

Regarding the new YouTube video Google+ Hangout feature, Google's Brian Glick posted this on his Google+ page a few days ago.

Have a great week! Email me at [email protected] if you have breaking news stories or insider tips.

Based in San Francisco, Gina Smith is the editor-in-chief of BYTE. Follow her at @ginasmith888.

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