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 Inventor 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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