The Smartphone Cultural Divide
Mike Loukides sees the App Inventor for Android as the perfect example of Google and Apple’s opposing views on app development.
By taking the coding out of app creation, Loukides perceives Google as not only lowering the bar but “throwing it away entirely.” This is in drastic contrast with Apple, which is all about delivering the perfect customer experience. The App Store is tightly regulated for the user, allowing them access to the apps Apple deems the best. Google’s ethos is the exact opposite. The quality of the user experience isn’t as important as the user having control over the form their experience takes, and the App Inventor is a key part of this ethos.
The accusation most commonly levelled at App Inventor for Android, is that it could see an influx of lower-quality apps in the Android Marketplace. However, the general consensus in the blogosphere is that, although this will most likely be the case, it’s a fair trade-off for empowering the general Android user to create their own apps. Sharon Machlis predicted a rise in “less-than-useful” apps, but also an increase in brand loyalty, as customers opt for the platform that gives them the ability to create their own “less-than-useful” apps, as they see fit.
In a previous blog post, Loukides again addressed this cultural divide between Google and Apple, presenting it as essentially the closed platform verses the open platform. He views Apple’s closed nature, as its major stumbling block: “you can only go so far telling customers that you know what’s best for them,” he says. He cites Flash as an example: he personally hates Flash, but admits that Flash is everywhere, and if you are building a platform, you have to take into account what software is popular, and give the people what they want. For Loukides, App Inventor is a clear statement that Google disagrees with this policy.
“I cannot imagine Apple offering non-programmers the ability to develop for the iPhone. If ported to iOS, App Inventor, or its equivalent, would presumably violate the iOS developer agreement,” he says. In fact, Apple did have something similar for a while, in the form of Scratch, a programming language that aimed to make it easy for people to develop their own interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art. However, Scratch for the iPhone and iTouch was removed in April, 2010, leading one Scratch fan to comment “Apple wants to be in complete control of what can make apps for their machines so they ban all app creators except their own.” Revealingly, another visitor to the Scratch forum advised “I’m sure an Android app is possible.”
Interested parties can sign up for the beta now, or watch a preview video of Google’s App Inventor for Android.