Google App Inventor:Era of the Citizen Programmer Arrived.

Posted on 01 December 2010

For all the ways that Google has changed the world over the past decade, could it be that Google’s most transformative achievement is just getting underway?

It may sport an almost absurdly minimal user interface (a hallmark of Google apps and web services,) but this simplicity masks its extraordinary power and utility. Simply put, the Google App Inventor allows even the most novice programmers to create fairly robust and powerful Android applications.

To be fair, there have been WYSIWYG development environments before Google App Inventor. A big part of Window’s success can be explained by their Visual Basic platform. However, it’s clear that Google has surpassed Microsoft in the ease of use department, by eschewing their somewhat hamfisted WYSIWYG/code editor combo, in favor of an entirely drag and drop interface.

How the Google App Inventor Works


In our test run, we were up and writing apps in seconds. The App Inventor seems to do an extraordinary job of masking the inherent complexity and difficulty of developing sophisticated mobile applications, while still providing the user with the ability to tap into the powerful capabilities of the Android platform.

All the developer needs to do is drag and drop user interface widgets onto their application’s screen. The user can then modify the properties and behaviors of each widget through an easy to understand interface. Adding media like images, sound, and video is just as simple, using the same drag and drop method.

The developer can leverage nearly all of the Android functionality, including: GPS and Accelerometer controls for user’s to try and build the next killer location app; communication protocols to build voice and text apps; text-to-speech conversion; simple database creation and integration; and perhaps most importantly, tools to easily integrate with API’s from all across the web.

If a user later develops the expertise to look under the hood, App Inventor will allow the user to export their app’s source code in order to tweak or optimize their program.

An App Renaissance or Avalanche?

A common concern with the App Inventor has been the potential flood of substandard apps the system could bring about. After all, Apple’s benevolent dictator approach to app approval has been cited by many as the reason for the iStore’s success.

However, Google, of all companies, should certainly be able to develop search and ranking tools to better organize their App Store. The benefit of the network effect should far outweigh these concerns. After all, as simplified blogging software and CMS tools evolved, the importance of the Internet grew. In short, the more creative people that are empowered to turn their great ideas into killer apps, the greater the platform.

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