Google releases Android 4.0 'Ice Cream Sandwich' source

Google has made good on its promise, and ahead of schedule: despite the Galaxy Nexus hero-phone still not being available at retail, the advertising giant has made the source code of Android 4.0 'Ice Cream Sandwich' available to download.

It's a major move for the company: when it released the tablet-centric Android 3.0 'Honeycomb' build, it refused to make the source code available - unlike every other version of the GNU/Linux-based Android to date - citing fears that unscrupulous OEMs would squeeze the system onto unsuitable phone-format devices.

When Google announced Android 4.0 'Ice Cream Sandwich' - the first version to reunite the previously split 'Gingerbread' smartphone branch with the 'Honeycomb' tablet branch - the search giant quickly promised that it would be making the source code fully available.

While many had expected the company to wait until the launch of the Galaxy Nexus - the first device to run 'Ice Cream Sandwich' out of the box - it appears that open source advocates at Google are keen to get started.

The result: Android 4.0 'Ice Cream Sandwich' is now available to download, and the hackers and modders responsible for the creation of custom ROMs can start porting it to older devices.

Despite the launch only happening a few hours ago - and the frankly insane build requirements, with Google recommended that developers have 16GB of RAM in order to compile the platform from source - some teams have already managed to create a build, with Scottish group Galnet the first out of the door with a version of 'Ice Cream Sandwich' for a variety of devices.