As a surprise early gift for Android developers everywhere, Google has posted the official Ice Cream Sandwich source code in the Android AOSP directory. Eager developers can download it right now and get cracking on ROMs and apps. The release is weeks before anyone expected the full source code to be available.

Earlier today Notion Ink’s CEO said that the full ICS source code would be made available on November 17th, the same day that the Android 4.0-sporting Galaxy Nexus is scheduled to be released in Europe. Before that, the best that we could get out of Google was “A few weeks” after the Galaxy Nexus launch. There’s still no word on when Verizon, the first US carrier slated to receive the Galaxy Nexus, will be launching the phone itself.

The Android Open Source Project code is an important step in Android adoption: full access to the open source code will allow manufacturers to upgrade their current devices to Ice Cream Sandwich. It also means that manufacturers, even those who opt not to use Google’s official services, can start making new phones and tablets that run the new software at launch. Modders like the CyanogenMod team will begin creating brand-new ICS ROMs soon.

Check out our hands-on looks at the Galaxy Nexus and Ice Cream Sandwich below:

Galaxy Nexus Hands-on

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Ice Cream Sandwich Hands-on

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