Google has tonight launched a new do-it-yourself tool Android application creation tool, called "Google App Inventor for Android", which aims to make it possible for anyone to create an application for their mobile operating system, Android, with no coding experience necessary.
Google says the app will allow "ordinary" people to create applications that do what they want in minutes - with a computer, web browser and Android device the only requirements. There's no SDK to download and no language to learn - virtually eliminating the barriers for many who have toyed with the somewhat daunting idea of making their first application.
The New York Times, which broke the news earlier this evening, says the application has been under development for more than a year, and has been tested in "schools with groups that included sixth graders, high school girls, nursing students and university undergraduates."
Why? Simply because creating an app is as easy as dragging "features" (such as text fields or the capability to interact with system functions including access to contacts or emails) of Android onto a canvas which can then be connected using "blocks" that turn the user interface into a fully-fledged application which can then be installed on Android devices. No coding is required at all - and learning how to use the App inventor takes no time at all (there's already a bunch of tutorials designed to assist).
But while Google may see this as a way for the Android Marketplace to outrun the pace of growth in Apple's App Store, which currently has more than 200,000 applications compared to Android's almost 100,000, questions have already arisen over the benefit of letting the "ordinary person" create applications with a what-you-see-is-what-you-get program. Apps made using App Inventor are simple at best, and could potentially clog the Android Marketplace with a bunch of useless or badly programmed apps, degrading the quality of the store.
It's also the latest sign that Google truly wants Android to be an open operating system - in direct comparison to Apple, who don't permit such tools for their iOS platform -- the operating system which runs on the iPod Touch and iPhone.
Google is currently taking registrations for those interested (if you're in the education sector, Google are particularly interested your participation) in trying out the beta of App Inventor.