In a post on the company's Android building group, Google software engineer Jean-Baptiste Queru announced that the source code for Android 4.0.1 "Ice Cream Sandwich" has been released. This means there's a good chance Ice Cream Sandwich is gearing up to launch across Android devices soon, but an actual release date will depend on individual wireless carriers and handset makers.
This is big news for Android developers, as the new Android build will supposedly eliminate fragmentation by unifying all Android 2.x smartphones and the 3.x tablets under one OS build. ICS will also open the door for a richer social environment, allowing developers to "add powerful new interactions that span multiple social networks and contacts sources" including calendar sources.
"This is actually the source code for version 4.0.1 of Android, which is the specific version that will ship on the Galaxy Nexus, the first Android 4.0 device," Queru said. "This release includes the full history of the Android source code tree, which naturally includes all the source code for the Honeycomb releases. However, since Honeycomb was a little incomplete, we want everyone to focus on Ice Cream Sandwich. So, we haven't created any tags that correspond to the Honeycomb releases (even though the changes are present in the history)."
On the consumer front, ICS will reportedly allow users to finally be rid of bloatware pe-installed by wireless carriers. The new streamlined OS will also feature folders for better apps management (borrowing from iOS no less), a redesigned keyboard, navigation keys, a spell checker that locates and underlines errors and suggests replacements, a new voice input engine that offers a continuous "open microphone" experience, face recognition-based screen unlock and loads more.
Developers ready to jump on the Ice Cream Sandwich bandwagon can head here. The files are located on Google's Android Open-Source Project git servers, but Queru warns developers that because ICS is such a large code push, it will take a while to complete. "If you sync before it's done, you'll get an incomplete copy that you won't be able to use, so please wait for us to give the all-clear before you sync," he said.