Google on Monday revealed a new software tool that lets just about anyone make apps for mobile phones that use its Android software. The beta version of the website for App Inventor for Android went live from Google Labs with a video showing how easy it is to make apps, including a number of ideas for apps people can make themselves.
"To use App Inventor, you do not need to be a developer. App Inventor requires NO programming knowledge," the website says. Software code is written by App Inventor software, while users are given options on what to include in the app.
The site offers several suggestions in app creation, including using the handset's GPS function for location, creating SMSs for friends, or building apps that link to other services, such as Twitter.
The new software tools should give Google's Android mobile software a leg up against rival smartphone software, including Apple's iPhone OS. The App Inventor site lets anyone become an app creator, giving people the power to design software specifically for their own needs. That's not so easy on the iPhone. Not only do people need software developer skills to make apps for the iPhone, but Apple vets all new applications before approving them for download.
One strength of Apple's system is that it can weed out apps with malicious code designed to steal or erase data. It's unclear what safeguards Google has in place for App Inventor. Anyone interested in using App Inventor to start making Android apps will need a few things, including a Gmail account, a computer and an Android-based handset, according to the App Inventor site.
Google announced App Inventor nearly a year ago, saying that faculty from dozens of colleges and universities were involved.
"Mobile applications are triggering a fundamental shift in the way people experience computing and use mobile phones," wrote Hal Abelson [CQ], a professor of computing science and engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and leader of the Google project, in an old blog posting. "Today, smartphones let us carry computing with us, have become central to servicing our communication and information needs, and have made the web part of all that we do."