Yesterday a giant gingerbread man was spotted on the lawn of Google HQ in California.

This may sound insignificant, just another tale of the ridiculous comfort in which Googledrones operate. But actually this is a deeply significant coded signal. What may appear a harmless giant confectionery object is really a secret message to the world's geeks to say: the next version of Android is almost here.

For the non-pimpled, Android is Google's mobile operating system, the power behind smartphones from the likes of HTC, Samsung, SonyEricsson and LG. Adorably, Google likes to name the upgrades of its products after tasty foodstuffs - there was Cupcakes, then Donut, then Eclair and most recently FroYo (frozen yoghurt). Next up is Gingerbread, and the emergence of Mr. Ginge on Google's lawn means the release is due in the next few days.

That's the good news. The bad news is Gingerbread isn't going to be a major overhaul - a Google engineer let slip earlier this week that it's going to be a bump from version 2.2 to 2.3, not to 3.0 as once hoped. (Android 3.0, it turns out, is nicknamed 'Honeycomb' and is due next year.) The big question is: will Gingerbread provide the much-needed support for tablets that LG and others are waiting for before taking on the iPad?

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