App Inventor is not only about education

App Inventor team’s initial impetus was education. But when it was released on July 12, 2010,  thousands of people showed up to the party. some were experienced programmers who love how easy it is to develop apps and prototype, some were web designers who suddenly could create something other than static web pages. Still others were creators/entrepreneurs who had found a way to prototype and create marketable apps, to take part directly in the development process.

Nobody really knows what to make of them because they are a new social group, a new phenomenon made possible by App Inventor’s low barrier to entry. Hard core programmers scoff at them and say they’ll ruin the Android market with trashy apps– they don’t want them at the party. The business world doesn’t even realize they exist. Its like we needed a Malcolm Gladwell to come in and make sense of a new social entity.

Anyway, this group has been ignored somewhat in the discussion concerning App Inventor’s closure, with most of the focus on educators like myself. Many of them have worked incredibly hard, taught themselves programming and app design, started businesses, and contributed greatly to the advancement of the language and Android in general.

Like teachers, this new technological group will have the carpet pulled  from under them if the transition to open source doesn’t go smoothly. Its a shame because our society needs more creative people with the skill to create not just blog posts and web pages, but interactive media, i.e., apps.

I guess this is, in a nutshell, why Google is closing its labs and focusing on fewer projects– they just aren’t able to fully support and promote the very cool projects they had. Perhaps in the transition to open source, with more organizations having a chance to contribute directly, this new group of software developers can be nurtured as they should be.

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3 Responses

  1. The best part of AppInventor for people like me is the visual code block editor. Its a visual version of intelisense. If the puzzle piece shapped blocks don’t fit then try again. Its a simple and brilliant concept.

    My hope would be the kick but Google Web Tools (GWT) team would take it over as part of their Eclipse visual editor plugin. Its not the code behind AI that is revelutionary as much as it is the concept.

    Xavier and the GWT team has made great strides in creating an awesome state of the art visual editor with built in code generators for not just Java but HTML5, CSS, etc. This would be a great way to get non programmers, who can bring serious innovation to the table, to get used to IED’s like Eclipse. Just toggle visual coding on and off. 🙂

    One big advantage to Google would be the code generation side would be interchangeable. If hardware API’s changed the developer doesn’t need to care. If for patent reasons Google wants it to produce pure HTML5 rather than Dalvic based code it can. It can use it to create hardware capable Chrome Apps!

    Which ever company harnesses the creative and innovative power of drag and drop programming will dominate the mobile space. Maybe it will be Motodev, AppAccelorator, Appsguyser, Titanium or PhoneGap. Who knows but we will all be in an appier world when someone adds to the brilliant concepts brought to light by AI.

  2. I’m terribly disappointed about Google calving off this project to splash in the wild. One of my big concerns is that it won’t receive decent support and will flounder around and end up disappearing.

    I found AI in the last two months and even purchased a fantastic book about it. I feel bad for the authors whose books will have invalid web addresses when they’ve only been in print for a few months. Perhaps Google will keep up decent pointers to the new locations.

    App Inventor has opened up a new world to me that would otherwise have been inaccessible. It’s changed the way I view programming (I work with a crack team already and was learning on my own) and the possibilities that it opens – even to us amateurs.

    Shame on you Google for killing this inventive and well-loved project off – hopefully open sourcing it will keep it alive and perhaps allow it to thrive as well.

    • I forgot to mention that ebooks won’t be affected, as authors can push out changes (at least on Kindle they can have Amazon push changes)… I had first purchased my AI book as an ebook and ended up returning for dead tree because it was easier to spread open on the table while working online. 🙂

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