The latest version of the Linux kernel was released Sunday afternoon, and with version 3.3 comes something that just may get your inner-geek excited -- tons of Android changes have been merged. In theory, one should be able to boot and run an Android powered device using just the vanilla, mainline Linux 3.3 kernel. There's still work to be done, especially with power management, and the wake-lock issue that many think was at the core of the argument whether to merge or not to merge still needs full resolution. But since Android doesn't need to have wake-lock support (it just keeps your battery from draining in record time) our phones and tablets can now be considered officially supported by the Linux community. We'll stay out of the nerd battle royal over the wake-lock issue and trust the promises that it will be taken care of with the 3.4 version.
Knowing that Android is now in the main Linux kernel trunk is good, and makes nerds all warm and fuzzy inside, but what does that really mean for you and me? Not a lot, really. ROM and kernel developers will benefit from an easier migration for changes and better support for custom features in the device's kernel, but for regular users there will be no big changes. For anyone working on a true native Linux distro running in tandem with Android from one device, this really makes things easier.
One last thing to mention is that we still will have to wait for OEM's to release kernel sources for each device or update. The current Android kernel is subject to the same license as the main Linux kernel, so nothing has changed on that front -- OEM's can and will modify it as they see fit (that's the beauty of open source) and be responsible for publishing any changes. They all have been getting better at this, so I don't foresee any big problems.
Hopefully, all goes as planned and we see full support in Linux 3.4, and the next reference device from Google.