I hate to say it, but Google's new App Inventor for Android might just be magical -- and maybe even a little revolutionary.
App Inventor for Android, officially unveiled by Google on Monday, opens up the world of app development to anyone and everyone. The tool lets you build your own custom Android app simply by dragging and dropping code -- no technical knowledge required. As Google's Mark Friedman puts it:
"App Inventor for Android gives everyone, regardless of programming experience, the opportunity to control and reshape their communication experience."
To be clear, App Inventor isn't about to replace or even threaten the traditional developer model -- far from it. Apps built with Google's new tool will be less robust and advanced than what any professional developer could create; we're talking about two entirely different leagues of programs. In fact, despite what you may have read elsewhere, apps created with App Inventor won't even be published to the Android Market as of now.
What App Inventor will do is further open up Android's environment by giving users more powerful ways to customize and control their phones. It's taking the notion of iPhone-closed vs. Android-open and raising the stakes yet again.
In other words, this could be big.
Android App Inventor: Exploring the Potential
For an illustration of the types of new opportunities App Inventor for Android creates, we turn to the gang from The New York Times, who got a sneak peek at some of Google's early testing.
The Times chatted with the leader of the App Inventor project, a fellow by the name of Harold Abelson. Abelson has an impressive résumé , to say the least: He's a founding director of Creative Commons, Public Knowledge, and the Free Software Foundation; he's a director of the Center for Democracy and Technology; and -- oh yeah -- he's also a professor of computer science and engineering at MIT. When this guy talks, I'm inclined to listen.
App Inventor's goal, Abelson tells The Times , is to "enable people to become creators, not just consumers, in this mobile world." Per The Times:
"The Google project, Mr. Abelson said, is intended to give users, especially young people, a simple tool to let them tinker with smartphone software, much as people have done with computers. Over the years, he noted, simplified programming tools like Basic, Logo and Scratch have opened the door to innovations of all kinds."