Google has released the source code for Android 4.0, aka Ice Cream Sandwich. Now handset manufacturers can start to customize the operating system to suit their products and programmers can start to play with the code.
You may be experiencing a sense of deja vu? Wasn't Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) launched last month.
Well yes and no.
The SDK was released to developers on October 18 and so they have been able to work on new and ported apps for the first Android 4.0 phone, the Samsung's Galaxy Nexus, which is due to launch some time this month for four weeks already.
Now the source code is also available and other devices are likely to come out early in the new year, expanding the user base and thus the marketplace for apps.
If you plan to actually download it and compile it then you need to know that Google recommends that your machine has 16GBytes of RAM to do the job, which might seem a little extreme. Some groups (Galnet for example) have already compiled the source for a variety of hardware configurations including models of the Samsung Galaxy, HTC Desire, Droid and the Nexus One and S. You can download these images and load them manually onto your Android hardware.
This is the first time the source code for Android tablet development has been released. Google decided not to let Honeycomb out into the world on the grounds that it was too buggy and well frankly embarrassing. It has been described as a "crash landing" and now ICS is the job done right.
So it is now fine to let everyone see the code but notice that Google gets to decide if and when, and this is not quite full open source. One can certainly sympathise with not wanting to make public lousy code, but it emphasizes the clear control and ownership of that code by Google. Android may be open source, but this is no committee-designed software. This might well be to the good, given how bad committees are at design, but we have to hope that Google forever remains a benign dictator.
Android Developer Site where you can download Android 4.0 SDK.
Galnet ICS for various devices
Ice Cream Sandwich SDK available
Android NDK updated
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