App Inventor Won't Disrupt The Android Market

6 Comments

With the introduction of Google’s (s goog) Android App Inventor last week, I noticed a number of tweets and comments about how the Android Market will be flooded with junk apps. Given that the App Inventor beta appears to make it easy to create mobile apps, I totally understand such concerns. But now that I’ve spent some hands-on time with it, I think those concerns are relatively unwarranted. For now, the App Inventor looks to serve another useful purpose — educating kids and the curious geeks (like me) about mobile application development.

I shared my full hands-on thoughts earlier today at jkOnTheRun, but here’s a summary of what my 12-year old son and I experienced using the App Inventor for a few hours. Save for one standalone Java piece, you create mobile apps on the App Inventor web page using drag-and-drop controls for the objects an end-user would see on their phone when using your app. The Java bit, called the Blocks Editor, is used to add logic, flow and events to the visual objects within your mobile app.

Blocks are like puzzle-pieces that you fit together to make things happen, so no actual programming knowledge is needed. When my son wanted to have his drawing app allow for a change in the onscreen “ink” color, for example, he linked the appropriate color block within a paint color block and both pieces were fit inside an event block. What looks like a virtual set of LEGOs to us became a way to click a button in our Android app and have the cursor color change.

Both the block approach as well as the web-based visual palette for creating mobile apps are leveraged from projects at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Scratch is the visual web or designer piece while the Open Blocks Java Library project is the basis for Google’s Blocks Editor. Both M.I.T. projects have one common denominator: they’re geared to teach programming concepts. While that doesn’t mean complex apps can’t be made with the Android App Inventor, the core purpose is educational. And given the limited APIs that the App Inventor can currently access, it’s likely to reamin a learning tool for most users in the foreseeable future.

Could you create an application for your Android handset and submit it to the Android Market? You sure can, and Google’s new tool makes it easy, thanks to support for creating both the software package in .apk format as well as a QR bar code for your application. In fact, my son put some of the tutorial apps — with some custom tweaks, of course — on my Nexus One handset. But until App Inventor matures, I don’t think we’ll see a flood of junk software flow to the Android Market. And if we do, perhaps Google can find a way to flag such titles so shoppers can filter out apps created with the App Inventor. In the meantime, my son and I are happy enough just learning more programming concepts that we can apply to mobile software in the future.

Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

Why Google Launched App Inventor

6 Comments

uman powered

Great article. You stated: “Could you create an application for your Android handset and submit it to the Android Market? You sure can, and Google’s new tool makes it easy, thanks to support for creating both the software package in .apk format ”

In the FAQ for http://appinventor.googlelabs.com/learn/userfaq.html
it says:
“Currently there are technical limitations to being able to upload an App Inventor app to the Andorid Market but we are actively evaluating the best way to integrate with the Market. ”

So, is what your saying, there ACTUALLY is a method for creating an App in App Inventor and somehow porting the .apk code to the Android Market? Thanks for your help.

sml

In the digital world all things are possible. Please post the solution once you find it.

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martin king

Rather than disrupt the android app market app invetor could be disruptive to the way we “compute”.

People love to customise their devices and apps – could be that in the future this is extended to custom building your apps.

I wonder if in the future we will custom mash interface experiences/apps from local to cloud based resources, feeds and data – the web without the page?

Alex Howell

AppInventor is based on open source java projects like openblocks, yet Google has not made the application open source or free to download. It is in a closed beta stage where only selected individuals are being given access. This is not the spirit of opensource..shame on Google and shame on the appinventor team!

Alvin B.

I think the advantage of App Inventor is to fill the same niche that Fortran has filled for years. Allow engineers (and others presumably now) to quickly prototype apps with a focus on getting end results and not so much a focus on accessing hardware features/components.

With this app, I could extremely quickly throw together all sorts of work-related utilities that serve a single but important purpose.

Filtering out app inventor apps from the market is certainly something I wouldn’t want Google to do. Flagging spam apps in general, regardless of how they’re built, is something much more productive. Unfortunately, then they’d be painted with the AppleCensor brush, and I don’t think Google wants that. I’d love to see a toggle-switch in the Market for “TimeWaster” apps. It would auto-hide all soundboards and photoshow apps.

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