Google Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich

Google has released the source code for Google Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. The operating system is designed to run on phones and tablets, and this is the first time Google has released the source code for a tablet-friendly version of the operating system.

The company never felt that Android 3.x Honeycomb was ready to run on smartphones, so Google held onto the source code and only made it available to trusted partners that were working on Android tablets.

The code being released today is designed specifically for the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, which will be the first device to run Android 4.0. But it probably won’t take long for developers to start modifying the code so that it can work with other devices.

We’ll likely start to see the latest Android operating system show up on new phones and tablets. Asus has already said that although the Eee Pad Transformer Prime tablet will ship in December with Android 3.2 Honeycomb, the company will soon offer an Ice Cream Sandwich update. And Motorola and HTC have already revealed plans to bring ICS to a number of smartphones.

And independent developers will probably start creating custom ROMs that brings the new operating system’s features to existing devices soon.

The developers behind the popular CyanogenMod project usually need a few months to incorporate a major Android update into their software, so it will probably be a while before we see Android on the HP TouchPad or NOOK Color. But we’ve already seen a handful of Ice Cream Sandwich ports for existing phones and tablets — and those were just based on the Android 4.0 emulator included in Google’s software developer kit.

The source code should allow developers to create much better ROMs — even for devices that may never officially be supported. For instance, Google officials have said that the company won’t release Android 4.0 for the nearly 2-year-old Google Nexus One smartphone. I have no doubt that some independent developer will do it though.

Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich includes a new user interface that bridges the gap between current Android phones and tablets. There are on-screen buttons for home, back, and recent apps functions. This paves the way for phones that don’t have any physical buttons at the bottom of the screen.

The keyboard has been tweaked to work on phones and tablets and there’s a new spell-checking feature built into the operating system. Google has also improved voice recognition in the operating system so that you never have to pause and wait for your device to catch up. It will convert your speech to text as you talk.

The web browser now has incognito mode that lets you surf the web without the browser saving your history. Users can also synchronize browser bookmarks between a mobile device and the Google Chrome web browser on their desktop computer. And Google now lets users choose to view full desktop versions of any web page in case you don’t want to see the mobile-optimized version.

Google has also made a number of updates to some of the default apps. There’s a new People app which replaces the Android contact manager with a new one which does a better job of integrating social networking and photos, and the camera and Gmail apps have received major updates.

You can find more details about Android 4.0 at Mobiputing.

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4 replies on “Google Android 4.0 source code now available”

  1. Where exactly are these independent developers to which you refer?  I thought the whole “enthusiasm” behind this news is that Google finally released some of the source code, which makes it sound to me like these developers were COMPLETELY DEPENDENT on Google to do so.  Moreover, they are also going to depend on binary blobs and improperly licensed (or correctly licensed but improperly used) drivers and libraries to glue together support for devices which aren’t officially suported.  This doesn’t sound very independent to me.  Moreover, it doesn’t seem like these coders are upstreaming ANY of their historical work, which implies that they are not only completely dependent but also fully subordinate in the project.  This is “indepdent”?  What an exciting fantasy of “open source” this must be for people whom wander around each day in the foggy pretense that this makes even the slightest bit of sense.

    This reminds me.  I heard that McDonalds might “open source” the McRib.  They plan on circulating the enumerated sequence of pictograms that hangs in the back of each “kitchen” and can be used by anybody of any linguistic background to assemble one of these elite Epicurean indulgences.  However, unless you happen to be a McDonalds IP holder or Roger Mandigo himself, the emulsified faux pork chop is going to be a stumbling block, and the best bet of the McRib hacking community is going to be to reuse the closed-source patty that is release for and installed in an existing, official McRib sandwich.  That said, eaters who are interested in a true open source BBQ pork sandwich should probably stay away from hacked McRibs, and cooking enthusiasts who want to be genuinely recognized as contributing to the development of such a sandwich will naturally not be part of the McRib hacking community either.

    1. I never suggested that outside developers were contributing to the creation of ICS… but rather that now that the source code is available they can modify it as they see fit.

      Since Google does currently develop Android behind closed doors before releasing major updates it wouldn’t make much sense for CyanogenMod, MIUI, or other folks to try to create Android 5.0 without Google’s help… so yes, in that sense they are dependent on Google.

      But as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other have shown — if you don’t care that much about forward-compatibility, there’s nothing stopping you from taking Android 2.3 or any other version of Android for which source code is available and making it into something that looks and functions quite differently from the mainstream version of Android.

      Google Android may not be a community supported project the way that Debian is. And Google execs may have their own reasons for releasing Android source code which may or may not be altruistic, depending on your perspective.

      But since Google *has* released the source for most versions of Android, it’s possible for people working outside of Google to do many things with it that wouldn’t be possible with, say, Windows or OS X.

      If Google decided tomorrow that it would cease all development of Android, I suspect we would start to see community-developed builds in the future because there’s a strong user base and a strong community of folks tweaking the OS already. But right now Google drives the development of Android.

      That doesn’t make the folks who work on Android in their own free time any less independent. They don’t work for Google. They don’t work for Samsung, Motorola, HTC, Asus, etc… they independently decide to spend their time modifying a tool that has been made freely available so that it better suits their needs.

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