Just a few hours ago, AOSP overlord Jean-Baptiste Queru announced that he had begun pushing the source code for Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich to the Android Open Source Project servers. While offering “a few hundred changes over Android 4.0.3,” Queru states that this update mainly delivers on the “tweaks and polish” side of the equation. So what is the bottom line for end users? Unless you currently rock a Nexus device lucky enough to be deemed worthy of the update, not terribly much. In fact, as part of his self-proclaimed 15 minutes(though we would argue that his significance far outstretches that time span), JBQ states that he expects there to be a roughly eight month delay before we start seeing devices rocking 4.0.4 on store shelves—right in time for the holiday season.
What I do not know, however, is the precise schedule for the release to any individual retail device. I don’t even know it for the flagship devices that Google is directly involved in. Thanks for not asking about those, I really can’t answer such questions.
At this point, many will undoubtedly be quick to point out that an eight month deployment for a software update seems unreasonably long. However, this is an unfortunate reality due to the diverse Android ecosystem and its multiple carriers, device hardware differences, OEM skins, and compatibility testing. The bottom line is that whether we like it or not, device updates on the Android platform are simply not as coordinated as on other mobile OSes.
However, that is not where the story ends for us thanks to our wonderful developers. With the release of the source code, the talented devs who make our devices fly now have a large piece of the puzzle to get Google’s latest and greatest ported to forgotten devices. That said, AOSP source code is not all that is required. In addition to Android itself, we still need device-specific kernel source code and proprietary libraries, such as what Qualcomm recently released for devices featuring Adreno 2xx graphics. All in all, however, today’s release truly represents the beauty of Android. As eloquently expressed in Andy Rubin’s now-infamous tweet:
the definition of open: “mkdir android ; cd android ; repo init -u git://android.git.kernel.org/platform/manifest.git ; repo sync ; make”
If you’re looking to get in on the AOSP discussion, discussions are well underway in the forums. Also, be sure to visit the official Google Groups thread. If you’re thinking of cooking up a creation yourself with today’s source release, also consider throwing in a few tweaks, while you’re at it._________