App Inventor

Google To Bring Android App Development To The Masses

Jessica Thornsby

Google launch private beta of App Inventor for Android, with the promise of no programming knowledge required.

This week, Google announced a software tool that aims to bring
Android app development to the non-coding masses.

The concept behind App
is that instead of writing code, users visually design
their app’s appearance and specify its behaviour using blocks.
Blocks can store information or represent repeated actions, or
services such as Amazon and Twitter. App Inventor also provides
access to a GPS-location sensor, again through the concept of
blocks. The blocks use the Open Blocks Java library, and the
compiler that translates the blocks language for implementation on
Android uses the Kawa Language Framework.

“To use App Inventor, you do not need to be a developer. App
Inventor requires NO programming knowledge,” reads the ‘About’
section at the App Inventor for Android page. This has led to some
talk in the blogosphere, of the Android Marketplace potentially
becoming bloated with poorly-designed apps. This has been further
fuelled by reports that user testing for the tool, took
place primarily in schools. Project lead Harold Abelson has
admitted that the apps he has seen coming out of the App Inventor
“aren’t the slickest applications in the world,” but he balances
this with the observation that they are “ones ordinary people can
make, often in a matter of minutes.”

Sharon Machlis acknowledges a similar thing:
that App Inventor will result in plenty of “less-than-useful” apps,
but empowering non-programmers to create their own
“less-than-useful” apps, is appealing to the average user and could
help cement platform loyalty. “App Inventor for Android is one of
the smartest things Google could have done in its battle with Apple
for the hearts and minds of smartphone power users,” she says.

Andre Yoskowitz draws an even more explicit
contrast with Apple, stating that “the move should give Android
another leg up on the Apple iOS, which requires people to have
software coding skills to make apps, and then Apple has to accept
the app to their App Store.”

It’s certainly a more appealing approach, for the casual user
who would like to have a go at creating an app for their smartphone
– but wouldn’t know where to begin with the App Store red tape.

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