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20 October 2011, 11:19

Andy Rubin: Android 4.0 to be open sourced by year end

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Android 4.0 ICS Speaking at this week's AsiaD conference in Hong Kong, Andy Rubin, Google Senior VP of Mobile and the man in charge of Android development, confirmed that the source code for the next major update to Android, version 4.0, will be available as open source "a couple of weeks" after the recently announced Galaxy Nexus smartphone ships next month.

Code-named "Ice Cream Sandwich" (ICS), Android 4.0 was first revealed yesterday (19 October) alongside the new Nexus device, at a joint Google and Samsung event. The new version of the mobile operating system includes features from both the current phone version, 2.3.x "Gingerbread", and the tablet version, 3.x "Honeycomb". While it will reportedly work on both large- and small-screen devices, it was only demonstrated on the Galaxy Nexus smartphone.

Addressing existing Android phones, Rubin said that updates from 2.3.x to 4.0 will start rolling out for other devices such as the Nexus S in December of this year. The recently announced Motorola RAZR smartphone, for example, which will ship with Android 2.3.5, should receive the update in early 2012. In a statement, HTC has said that it is "currently reviewing" ICS in order to determine its upgrade plans: "While our goal is to upgrade as many of our recent devices as possible, we are committed to maintaining every phone's performance and usability first". Sony Ericsson has also confirmed that its 2011 Xperia handsets will receive ICS.

While Google has released the source code for the 1.x and 2.x branches of the mobile OS on the Android Open Source Project portal, it has yet to publish the source for the currently shipping tablet version, Android 3.x "Honeycomb". In May, Google said that Honeycomb source code would not be released until after ICS arrives; further details have not been announced.

Video highlights of Rubin speaking to Walt Mossberg at AsiaD can be found on the AllThingsD web site. Download links to the GPL-licensed components included in the Android 4.0 SDK, such as the kernel and platform files, are already available via a post by AOSP Software Engineer Jean-Baptiste Quer on the Android Building Google Groups page. Source code for Android 1.x and 2.x is available from the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) portal.

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