A few weeks ago, Google announced that they’re beginning to extend invitations to the general public to access a new tool called App Inventor. It’s designed to make it easy for anyone to create a mobile application for Android powered devices.
For the first couple of days after the announcement, I noticed a lot of activity on blogs and news sites from readers commenting about App Inventor. My impression was that the majority of the negative comments were from programmers deriding the idea as ill-conceived because of all the low quality software that would result.
That’s total garbage. Too many programmers are way too territorial when it comes to who should be developing software. There’s a lot of complexity surrounding the issue, but the lowest common denominator is insecurity. I’m convinced that the more exposure people have to how programming works, the more they’ll appreciate what a good programmer can do.
I think App Inventor is great! It’s free, it runs in your browser, it’s simple (think “Lego for software”) and it has the potential to get a lot of people tinkering with software development. There will be a lot of awful stuff, but I’ll bet we’ll be surprised by the creativity App Inventor spawns. I was often surprised by what a good HyperCard user could come up with, and I think due to ease of access, the hardware available on Android devices (GPS, accelerometer, etc.) and the potential for collaboration through extensibility, App Inventor could power some really cool stuff.
I’m recommending that our clients fill out this form and try App Inventor for themselves. You may be able to create something useful (if it works well enough, you might even save a few bucks in programming fees). You may hate it. You’ll more than likely learn something.
Don’t have an Android phone? Don’t let that stop you. You can run your program in App Inventor’s device emulator. And if you need help, get in touch and we’ll try to get you past anything that trips you up.
For crying out loud, get your kids to try App Inventor! Heaven knows we need more American kids getting interested in science and engineering. More on that soon….