Google’s App Inventor Might Be a Game Changer

Led by Apple’s App Store, which stocks about 250,000 applications, applications across all platforms  are here to stay and help you pass the time while traveling or while stuck in the midst of a boring meeting.

Google’s latest announcement that its App Inventor will allow almost anyone to build an app will be a boon to the technically-challenged. For those with a great idea, but are useless at programming in Facebook Markup Language (FBML) or incompetent when it comes to the iPhone Software Development Kit (SDK), the App Inventor (currently in closed, approval-only beta) will be a blessing.

Some writers are saying that the new service is aimed at students. I think it’s more than that. Granted, you need industrial-strength coding skills to come up with a polished app, but App Inventor might help let aspiring coders get their feet wet before making the big step to learn coding. So this handholding process can help move things along for those in business and academia.

In the early 1990, websites were coded in HTML by hand. Later, the appearance of WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) HTML editors like Frontpage, Coffeecup and Homesite meant that anyone capable of dragging and dropping icons could create somewhat functional websites.

In a similar fashion, the WYSIWYG manner in which App Inventor functions can be dragged and dropped to create an application, even if you can’t tell your PHP from your HTML means that the idea of building an application is suddenly less intimidating. Even for those with coding skills taking on the building of an App can be challenging. I have a contact who’s been a certified Microsoft developer but faced many unexpected challenges creating iPhone apps using the SDK, to give you an idea of how challenging it might be.

But then again, just like WYSIWYG HTML editors don’t prevent you from making ugly websites, in a similar fashion I don’t believe App Inventor will help screen your apps for usability or poor taste.  Think of applications like the vuvuzela app created in honor of the prominent noisemaker at the recent World Cup competition, for an idea of how bad things might get.

App Inventor is not likely to put any programmers out of work, just like HTML editors have not put web designers out of a job. There’s still room for professional looking and more importantly, functioning applications. The App Inventor does help democratize the process of creating applications.

But no one’s ever said that democracy had to be look pretty. Please, we don’t need any more vuvuzela apps.

About Andrew Wee

You can find Andrew Wee on Twitter @andrewwee

One Response to Google’s App Inventor Might Be a Game Changer

  1. CT Moore says:

    I wonder if, just like MySpace taught a generation of teenage hipsters the basics of HTML and CSS, this might coax hoards of non-geeks into learning code — and help usher programming knowledge into the mainstream along with the alphabet, etc.