Last month I wrote a post about how more open programming interfaces and a desire to give business users a more active role in creating enterprise applications was leading vendors including Oracle and Salesforce.com to blur the lines between software developers and end users.
In both the enterprise and consumer worlds, software development is becoming a more democratic process, largely thanks to companies making their application programming interfaces (APIs) more widely available. APIs remove some development hurdles by making it easier to share content and data between applications. Not just anyone can develop applications with APIs, however.They are of limited use for folks with no development chops.
Google is taking the democratization of development even further with the introduction of App Inventor for Android. According to the Google product description:
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.
Just how easy to use is it? According to The New York Times, folks who have already tested App Inventor include sixth graders, nursing students and university undergraduates who are not computer science majors. Harold Abelson, a computer scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who is on sabbatical at Google and led the project, believes the software will drive innovation by allowing ordinary people to create apps.
It could also create added interest in Google's Android operating system, which has been making big gains as a development platform, and in Web development. As the Times notes, the tool is Web-based except for a small software download that automatically syncs programs created on a PC, connected to the App Inventor website, with an Android smartphone.
While this seems like largely a consumer move, Computerworld blogger Richi Jenkins zeroes in on the enterprise implications of App Inventor, saying it could lead more companies to investigate alternatives to Windows. He writes:
Android isn't just for smartphones and tablets. Google is also targeting Android and/or Chrome OS on the desktop -- Chrome OS for simple, web-app-centric tasks, and Android for running more conventional applications. What if Google's App Inventor could create apps for these desktop platforms, too? Many IT departments that are frustrated by Windows would jump at the chance of running a mature, easy-to-use, Linux-based platform that's supported by a big name like Google.