Today Google launched “App Inventor,” a do-it-yourself mobile app creation tool that lets anyone build their own Android applications without needing to know how to program or even write a line of code. Instead, using an online interface, would-be developers visually design the app’s interface and interactions, using drag-and-drop blocks that specify what the app should look like and how it should behave.
Want your app to talk to Twitter? There’s a button for that. Want your app to use text-to-speech? No problem. Use the GPS? Piece of cake. Or so says Google, who had tested the app for a year prior to launch with groups that included “sixth graders, high school girls, nursing students and university undergrads who are not computer science majors,” reports The New York Times, who broke the story this morning.
Does that list of testers sound a little odd to you? “It’s so easy a high school girl can use it!” Or a nursing student! (A profession still dominated by women, mind you.) In any event, the point The New York Times was making is that Google App Inventor is so easy anyone can use it; they just came about that point in a somewhat sexist way.
Official DIY App Highlights Difference Between Apple and Google Philosophies
But DIY app creation tools aren’t new, nor are they unique to Google Android. However, apps like these usually exist as third-party applications, not ones that are officially launched and blessed by the company whose software they support.
For example, in Apple’s ecosystem, there are a number of DIY apps that let non-developers create and submit iPhone applications to the iTunes App Store without needing to know Apple’s own development language. Last year, we profiled over a dozen of these services, ranging from the templated creations made with Sweb Apps to the more robust app builders from Appcelerator and Rhomobile.
Google: Anyone with an Idea is Welcome Here
Google, on the other hand, is taking an entirely different stance than Apple. Instead of locking down its App Market, barring entry to anyone but those who know how to code in the languages it specifies, Google is embracing “openness,” saying anyone with an idea is welcome here.
To function, Google’s App Inventor uses the Open Blocks Java library for creating visual blocks programming languages. Open Blocks is distributed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Scheller Teacher Education Program and derives from thesis research by Ricarose Roque. It’s also closely related to the Scratch programming language – a language, notes Forrester Research principal analyst Jeffrey Hammond, that was banned on the iPhone.
Yes, that may mean a bunch more “junk” applications, as TechCrunch rightly points out. But it could also mean more great applications, too. Or maybe just more of everything. Like Michael Gartenberg, partner at Altimeter Group, quipped on Twitter this morning: “…look how much damage those WYSIWYG word processors and graphics programs have done.” Damage? Like a Web where everyone can publish?
Those interested in signing up for App Inventor can do so here.