Google has officially introduced the next major release of its mobile operating system: Android 2.3 (codenamed Gingerbread). At the same time, the search giant has unveiled the next Android device from the Nexus line of mobile products: the Nexus S. Finally, the company has released updated tools for the new Android platform; to get started, check out Android Developers, the SDK, the ADT Plugin, and the new NDK.

Google says version 2.3 is the fastest version of Android so far. It delivers a number of improvements: user interface refinements, Near-Field Communication (NFC) support, a new keyboard and text selection tool, Internet (VoIP/SIP) calling, improved copy/paste functionality, and gyroscope sensor support. The company plans to open-source Gingerbread in the coming weeks.

The Nexus S will be the first device to ship with Android 2.3. Google and Samsung developed the product together to highlight the latest advancements of the Android platform. As the Nexus One before it, the Nexus S delivers a "pure Google" experience: an unlocked device that is the first to get the latest updates to Google's mobile services and Android releases.

The Nexus S features a 4" Contour Display, a 1GHz Hummingbird processor, front and rear facing cameras, 16GB of internal memory, and NFC hardware that lets you read information from NFC tags on objects like movie posters, stickers, and t-shirts. In the US, it will be available for purchase (unlocked or with a T-Mobile service plan) on December 16 both online and in-store from Best Buy stores, while in the UK it will be available at Carphone Warehouse and Best Buy retailers on December 20.

The first Android phone hit the market in November 2008. After two years, there are more than 100 different Android devices, 200,000 Android devices activated daily worldwide, and 100,000 apps on the Android Market.