The Android App Marketplace is growing at a steady pace, but Google wants to get as many apps as possible, maybe in an effort to catch up to Apple, and has now introduced the Google App Inventor which enables practically everyone to create a mobile app for the Android platform.
The idea behind App Inventor is simple, creating applications is hard work, even those based on standard web technologies, and requires knowledge outside the reach of most people. While anyone with some programing experience can put together a basic app in a matter of hours, the way Google sees it, your grandma should be able to build Android apps as well.
To use App Inventor, you do not need to be a developer. App Inventor requires NO programming knowledge. This is because instead of writing code, you visually design the way the app looks and use blocks to specify the app’s behavior.
According to the AppInventor team they :”created blocks for just about everything you can do with an Android phone, as well as blocks for doing ‘programming-like’ stuff– blocks to store information, blocks for repeating actions, and blocks to perform actions under certain conditions. There are even blocks to talk to services like Twitter.”
The blocks editor uses the Open Blocks Java library for creating visual blocks programming languages. Open Blocks is distributed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Scheller Teacher Education Program and derives from thesis research by Ricarose Roque. We thank Eric Klopfer and Daniel Wendel of the Scheller Program for making Open Blocks available and for their help in working with it. Open Blocks visual programming is closely related to the Scratch programming language, a project of the MIT Media Laboratory’s Lifelong Kindergarten Group.
The compiler that translates the visual blocks language for implementation on Android uses the Kawa Language Framework and Kawa’s dialect of the Scheme programming language, developed by Per Bothner and distributed as part of the Gnu Operating System by the Free Software Foundation.
The App Inventor for Android build apps using a web browser and a Java Web Start application. The development team notes that it is compatible with Mozilla Firefox 3.6 and higher, Apple Safari 5.0 and higher, Google Chrome 4.0 and higher, and Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 and higher, and that it can be used on computers running under Windows (XP, Vista and 7), Mac OS X 10.5, 10.6, or Linux (Ubuntu 8+, Debian 5+). Java 6 is also required. Additional details on the matter are available here.