When Google announced this past Monday that the company would be releasing App Inventor, an app development tool requiring zero programming knowledge, a number of questions arose around the tech sphere. Would this lead to an explosion of Android apps? And if so, how are we supposed to filter through all the 'crapps' that are sure to enter the marketplace (Attention, World, I invented a word: crap+apps=crapps). Does this mark a turning point where programmers start to become obsolete?
From a business perspective, one question trumps all of those, of course: What's in it for Google? I suspect that the company's hopes for this new App Inventor tool can be read from how they have beta-tested it so far. It's all about schools, as the New York Times reported, "User testing has been done mainly in schools with groups that included sixth graders, high school girls, nursing students and university undergraduates who are not computer science majors."
Similarly, if you apply for access to App Inventor via Google's registration form, you're prompted with questions like, "What is your school or affiliation?" or "How do you plan to use App Inventor for Android? K-12 Classroom, University Course, or After School Program?"
Winning hearts and minds, and winning them early. A wise strategy indeed. If nothing else, it will allow wannabee developers to get their feet wet, which might lead them to dive into development even further.
I haven't even mentioned the abundance of people out there dying to make the next great iPad app, but without the coding skills to do so. It seems everyone and their dog wants on that boat, and more than a few will look to hitch a ride with the big G.
But in contrast to Google's more open policy, Apple runs a far tighter, more exclusive ship (a slick, aluminum-plated yacht perhaps?) with Jobs and company reserving the right to jettison any apps that don't meet their relatively high standards.
We'll just have to wait and see how this platform war plays out. However, Android's recent jump in market share combined with Apple's App Store woes might very well be keeping Steve Jobs awake at night.
Maybe that's why he's sending all those late night emails?
For those of you who'd like to see a simple demo of Google App Inventor in action, watch the following video: