The Android Marketplace may be getting a little bit more crowded soon. This week, Google Labs revealed to the world App Inventor, a creative programming tool that allows just about anyone to figure out how to design and create Android applications… and there was much rejoicing.
Thanks to the open architecture of the Android OS, App Inventor allows for tweaking of everything and anything that is contained in the operating system, like a giant Android application sandbox.
The interface itself looks like something out of Visual Basic and uses a web browser and the Java Web Start kit to allow one to create and explore the Android environment. According the the official website, the tool allows for the user to create packaged applications that can store data, create quizzes, provide access to the phone’s GPS and phone messaging features, and access websites to collect data.
Similar to Visual Basic, the program is a block based development tool allowing for things like timers, buttons, and the like to build an official Android application. The App Inventor website, along with describing how to install the tool on one’s personal computer, has some free tutorials that show step-by-step how to create some basic applications ranging from drawing pictures on a cat (or any picture for that matter), to allowing teachers to create quizzes for students to complete.
While an application is being designed, it can be previewed by first turning on “USB Debugging” and “Stay Awake” (through Settings -> Applications -> Development) on the Android phone and then connecting it to one’s personal computer via USB. At this point in time, this developmental tool is being presented as is; there is no way to start in App Inventor and export the Java source code for further tweaking. From start to finish, this tool creates applications. Furthermore, this software is currently in closed beta but anyone can attempt to sign up via their Gmail account here.
This is BIG news for the mobile community, and even though the tool is just two days old it is already being hyped, downplayed, argued, debated, and praised by every major technology and news publication (I’m surprised Women’s Day Magazine hasn’t covered it yet). For now, the majority approve of this “every-man’s” developmental medium, but it will take some time to see the true results of this great leap forward.
Android was not built in a day, but very soon its applications will be. Here’s to progress.