Interview: Matthew Zakutny – Phoenix webOS project

Before the HP Touchpad was discontinued and met its maker in a fire sale only 49 days after its release there was one company working hard to bring an ACL (application compatibility layer) to webOS.

The ACL would allow Android games to be playable in webOS on the HP Touchpad. That company was OpenMobile. Unfortunately when the HP Touchpad bit the dust the funding to make the ACL went with it.

Now the source code for webOS has been sold to LG and a new company founded by a group of dedicated webOS fans named Phoenix international communications (hereby referred to as PIC) has stepped up with a Kickstarter project to secure funding to keep building the ACL. PIC is working with OpenMobile to continue what was already started before the fall of the HP Touchpad.

PIC’s Kickstarter campaign has now reached its goal of $35,000 but will remain open until May 23rd 2013. Any extra funding beyond the 35k will go to upgrade the ACL from where it currently sits at running on Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) to running on Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich).

There are a ton of different pledge levels with the coolest being the $7500.00 level. Its a lot of money but you receive a lot for what you’re spending. You get a round trip flight to New York City; a brand new white 64GB HP Touchpad preloaded with the latest ACL; two night stay at a 5 star hotel; dinner with the co- owners of PIC plus some of the PIC team, and a bunch of extra swag like a special software package, t-shirts, flashlights and key chains.

PIC’s Kickstarter page can be found here, for anyone interested in pledging. Now that the Kickstarter goal is met PIC hopes to have the ACL ready for purchase by July 2013. Given the amount of work that has already been put into the ACL and considering the large funding boost it’s just gotten this does not seem very far fetched.

Being able to run android games without having to dual boot your Touchpad will be a great addition. Android apps run in cards right next to the things you currently use on your Touchpad hopefully without any problems. When you launch an Android app it basically creates a phone on your screen including home and back buttons sort of like a video game emulator.

There is already a working Alpha stage version for the ACL, and you can check out the video below. The alpha version is running on Gingerbread 2.3 currently, with plans to upgrade to Android Jelly Bean and Ice Cream Sandwich depending on how the first release does.

I sat down with Matt Zakutny, one of the co-owners of PIC, to discuss what’s happening currently with the ACL and what we might be able to expect in the future. During our conversation, new information about the alpha build was reveled along with future plans for other webOS devices that have been widely asked about in the webOS community.

So what is it that made you want to start the Kickstarter to get the funding to continue work on the ACL?

Matt Zakutny: Well our ultimate goal has always been to create a smart phone for the webOS community, and we are trying to take things one step at a time. The most important thing the community needs right now is access to all applications in order to help even the playing field against other mobile operating systems.

I know that webOS is a dedicated but small community, have they been very helpful with the work you’ve been doing trying to bring the ACL back from the dead?

Matt Zakutny: Back in July 2012 we opened ourselves up to the community and asked for volunteers. A bunch of people got in contact with us and working relationships were formed. With out them, this wouldn’t have been possible.

How long has the alpha build been running?

Matt Zakutny: The alpha build has probably been running for over a year, since the project was shelved. With that said, the project has picked back up in recent weeks and is coming along great.

How will the Android Apps be sold? Will the ACL have its own store or will it have direct access to the android market?

Matt Zakutny: That’s more of a two part question. First, the most likely scenario is that you will be downloading the ACL software from our website, but we are also going to do whatever we can to make it available through the HP app store. As for the second part of your question, the Android applications will be available through ACL as an APP store. The ACL software is essentially multiple android application stores combined into one.

And how about problems with getting funding? Is this something you were working on for a while before starting this Kickstarter?

Matt Zakutny: Funding has always been a major obstacle in every project that we have worked on in PIC. We felt that this was the first project that warranted using Kickstarter to obtain the backing. With that said, there was a great deal of funding that went into the ACL technology before we were able to bring it to Kickstarter.

At release do you expect the ACL to be able to play all android apps running on Gingerbread?

Matt Zakutny: At this time, we expect most applications from Gingerbread to run on the software. Our goal is 100% and were going to continue to work on any hiccups along the way.

Will the ACL be able to run a streaming service like Netflix or Hulu without any problems?

Matt Zakutny: On our alpha version we already have Netflix working. It’s a bit choppy right now and has some bug issues, but it is a top priority to make this application available.

Now that the first ACL is funded when do you expect to start work on upgrading it to Android 4.0?

Matt Zakutny: Today we reached $35,000 and that is a key milestone for us. All future donations will go toward Jellybean and plans for future devices.

Do you currently have any plans to get this working on other webOS platforms?

Matt Zakutny: Yes, right now we are testing a pre3 to see how much modifications the software will need in order to run on it.

Once the ACL is available do you have any type of marketing planned? A way to let people with the HP Touchpad know about it.

Matt Zakutny: The most important key in marketing the ACL application is to get it on the HP app store. That will be a number one priority after it’s release. We are not holding our breath though and are preparing for alternate marketing strategies.

Things are looking good HP Touchpad owners and now that PIC has publicly said their testing the ACL on a Pre 3 smart phone people have a good reason to be optimistic.

While I wasn’t able to go hands on with the alpha build, I was told that some time in the near future I’ll be invited back to check out what they have already accomplished with the ACL. When this happens I’ll be back to keep you updated.

  • james

    maybe my touchpad will stop collecting dust now

  • james

    maybe my touchpad will stop collecting dust now

  • Ivyanna

    Hope that ACL thing works. I’m tired of duel booting.

  • peyton simms

    Sounds awesome definatley gonna check it out

  • Steve Rockman

    definitely looking forward to this happening finally. Good read.