CyanogenMod, the project that lets people use new versions of Android even when their carriers or phone makers aren't caught up, has begun working on its version of Ice Cream Sandwich.
The CyanogenMod version of Android supports dozens of phones, including these from HTC. (Screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET)
A simple tweet this week announced the work is under way: "And we're off. Check back in 2 months :) #cm9 #ics."
The #ics hashtag refers to Ice Cream Sandwich, aka Android 4.0. The #cm9 hashtag refers to CyanogenMod 9, the version of the software built with it.
One sore point for many Android phone owners is that they must wait for operating system upgrades that can arrive months earlier on other phones. Sometimes new Android versions don't arrive at all. CyanogenMod requires that a person root the phone to install the custom OS, but newer Android features then become available — at least for the dozens of devices Cyanogen works on.
In the meantime, the Cyanogen programmers continue to maintain the current version. "We're still going to get CM7.2 out the door while CM9 is being worked on," said another tweet.
One hurdle for ICS will be grappling with the fact that the new version of the operating system is much larger, which means compiling it so a phone can run it means more computing power is required.
With the current version of CyanogenMod, it takes about 24 minutes to build a version of Android, and the project builds 50 versions for various devices, according to a blog post from Chris Soyars. Ice Cream Sandwich has a "considerably larger source tree", though, and it takes Google 25 minutes per build on hardware that's more powerful than the servers Cyanogen uses.
The Cyanogen ICS announcement came a day after Google released the Ice Cream Sandwich source code. Although Android is an open-source project, Google controls the official Android build and only releases it as open-source software when a new version is done. It never released an open-source version of Honeycomb, aka Android 3.x, which was a stopgap version of Android for tablets. ICS works on both tablets and phones, though.