Google released App Inventor today, a program that makes creating Android apps easy enough that a non-programmer can do it. InformationWeek, where I read about this, points out that Google is lowering the barrier to app dev entry at the same time that Apple is making its rules “increasingly restrictive.” It’s a good point. From InfoWeek:
While App Inventor apps may lack the sophistication of Android apps coded by professional developers, they can nonetheless make use of a variety of powerful features. App Inventor provides access to GPS, accelerometer, and orientation data, telephony services like phone calls and texting, speech-to-text services, contact data, persistent storage, and Web services such as those provided by Amazon and Twitter.
Some of these services aren’t for technophobes — TinyWebDB, which stores data on the Web using Google App Engine, requires some software installation and Python text file editing. But App Inventor really does allow programming novices to create functional Android apps.
Coding in App Inventor involves moving blocks about on screen and editing their properties where appropriate. App Inventor is based on MIT’s Open Blocks Java library. Google says the tool builds upon the work of Seymour Papert and the MIT Logo Group.
Apple last year made much of the fact that there were far more iPhone apps available than there were apps on other mobile platforms. It still has the lead with about 200,000 apps, but the marketing value of boasting about app count has been declining as the Android app count has risen.
For more information on App Inventor, check out this Google page.
App Inventor is a brilliant market-share move by Google. Lowering the barriers to entry for app development will spur peoples’ interest in Android development–and, by extension, Android-based smartphones. App Inventor also has the benefit of luring kids and teens into app development, making early and hopefully lifelong Android fans out of them.
Google is also making app development accessible at an ideal time. Smartphones are hot, apps are sexy, and knowledge around developing an app is in high demand right now (check out your local app developer’s hourly rates if you want to know what I’m talking about). People are hungry to get their hands on this particular ability.
Google just filled a very ripe niche. I doubt Apple, which seems to have become rigid to customer needs, will respond in kind. But on some level, Apple’s gotta be feeling this.