Google kills off app maker
Android click-to-program heading for open source?
Google's App Inventor could be revived as an open source platform in order to let students click their way to Android applications without having to muck about learning stuff.
App Inventor was run by Google Labs, the research operation currently being shut down as part of the chocolate factory's streamlining focus. But in a blog post the Program Manager suggests that the success of the platform could lead to it being released into the educational market as an open source product.
When it was first announced, App Inventor was enormously hyped as a breakthrough in application development despite being a fairly typical fourth-generation environment based on MIT's Scratch. The usual limitations apply in terms of complexity verses functionality, but for churning out simple apps it seems a decent tool.
Sadly that view wasn't shared by David Pogue of the New York Times, whose damning review of App Inventor involved him spending an entire day failing to create a single application or even complete the tutorial.
Drag-and-click development environments pop up every now and then, generally just for long enough to claim to be the next big thing, until the world remembers that natively-developed code runs faster and is more flexible.
Schools and colleges are great users of these technologies as an introduction or foundation for IT subjects as they can teach the processes of computer programming without having to teach code.
Releasing App Inventor as open source will require a careful examination of the code to establish whether any bits are owned by someone else, but restricting it to educational use might mitigate against the patents on which the platform likely infringes.
The platform will remain available until at least the end of 2012, but depending on how the process goes it might yet have a long-term future showing kids how to create farting applications for the next generation.®
But at least they got off their asses and tried, unlike some companies that are either too scared to fail or don't spend money on R&D at all.
It's called R&D
All R&D involves of trial and error. That's why it's called research.
Actually I used App Inventor. It worked for simple things, but was not that simple when it came to making full-fledged apps. It was a very Beta product, so that's fine.
"until the world remembers that natively-developed code runs faster"
Er, 1985 called and want their reason not to use productivity tools back.
In fact there is absolutely no reason in principle that a graphical tool couldn't produce code as fast as native C or even native assembler. The reason people don't use graphical tools, so they never mature to that level, is that a few lines of C translate into an A3-sized diagram, and no-one wants to wrangle an A3-sized diagram. Which is sad, because once you get above the low level to, say, integration of heterogeneous systems over a network, the diagramming approach should win out by a mile.
This is the same reason, incidentally, that most chip makers write VHDL or Verilog instead of making football-pitch-sized schematics. (Ironically, in that case, the people that do use football-pitch-sized schematics do so to get extra speed.)