Google's master Android plan: We're all mobile app developers now

Google's master Android plan: We're all mobile app developers now

Summary: Google has launched an effort to make everyone an Android software developer. The search giant is hellbent on growing its app inventory and the Android marketplace and has the momentum and open approach to just give Apple a run.


Google has launched an effort to make everyone an Android software developer. The search giant is hellbent on growing its app inventory and the Android marketplace and has the momentum and open approach to just give Apple a run.

Now Google is offering a do-it-yourself mobile app tool. The tool, which is available now in Google Labs, is called App Inventor. Google sets the scene:

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.

The discussion around App Inventor early Monday focused on quality of apps. Gasp! Will quality suffer if non-techies use App Inventor? Probably not. Let's get real here. The mobile app quality isn't so hot to begin with. Many apps are simply useless on Android and iPhone. However, the beauty here is that useless is in the eye of the beholder. Now I'm never going for the Wonder Bread app, but some sandwich junkie may think it's the best thing ever. There's something to be said for allowing anyone to create a quiz app (right). Sure, there will be clunkers, but open up mobile apps and let the marketplace demand decide.

Google is going to open Android up to the masses and probably pass the iPhone/iPad/iPod touch app market in the future. There was a good bit of chatter about Android's surge over the weekend. I'm in the camp that thinks Android's march to the No. 1 app spot is inevitable.

AndroidLib estimates that the Android marketplace will soon have more than 100,000 mobile apps. Apple's App Store has more than 225,000.

And now you throw in App Inventor and it's clear Google is trying to do to Android what it did for YouTube. You contribute and the ecosystem grows---exponentially. In addition, App Inventor is a nice way to show off what Android can do.

It remains to be seen if the masses truly start creating Android apps. App Inventor makes life easier, but it's unlikely your grandmother is going to follow along. That's OK since there will be enough semi-novice developers to boost the Android app inventory.

Here's a look at a few screenshots from App Inventor.

The creation of an app...

And how App Inventor organizes functions into blocks...

Topics: Apps, Android, Google, Mobility, Software Development

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • They invented Visual Basic....

    20 years after VB

    • RE: Google's master Android plan: We're all mobile app developers now


      Apple is loosing App lead to Android sooner than Jan 2011!

      the following graph will now be obsolete!

      Is Apple afraid?
      • Google trash...

        @Uralbas <br><br>I love Google but when I think of their App Market, the phrase "Google Trash" comes to mind. Countless duplicated apps, ringtone apps, wallpaper apps, 3rd rate copycat app, apps that may steal data....probably all the App Store rejects wind-up in Google's App Market.<br><br>Maybe they should be worrying about cleaning up the mess before worrying about Apple's lead.
      • I wouldn't be afraid.


        Sheer number of apps means very little. Unfortunately, it really is true: a lot of the apps on Google's Android Market really are duplicates, rip-offs or outright "Google Trash".

        The poor quality level on the Android Market reminds of me CB radio back in the 70s: people took a good idea and ruined it with a lot of trash. The same thing threatens the Android Market today. Despite what the tea-partiers would have us believe, the free market does NOT guarantee the best will rise to the top. It doesn't even guarantee the market will still be paying attention when the good stuff finally does rise to the top!

        The quality of iPhone apps isn't that much greater, though. But Google's approach of letting the market sort out the diamonds in the rough could backfire on them: it could turn people off of Android thanks to the "Google Trash" before the fewer really good apps rise to the top.

        I am hoping that does not happen; I want to see Android succeed. But I was much more optimistic BEFORE they gave us this snake oil, "App Inventor".
      • True Innovation Comes from Users Who Stumble onto Genius!

        • Re: True Innovation Comes from Users Who Stumble onto Genius!

          @Uralbas How is Apple's Market any different? Especially after we've learned what some Vietnamese, Chinese and even evil American Developers are doing w/ 1000's of junk apps in iTunes. Where's their famous or infamous security?

          How about the App in iTunes that buys other apps? How did that get through??? How is their security so lax that people are having their credit card & personal info handed out all over Asia & Europe like business cards? Many more People are losing money in Apple's App store than they are reporting... still? Many unable to prove it until recently, that it's been happening all along. But Apple only knows how to make things look pretty with their greed and ignorance of the dangers (even in a closed Firewalled "Garden Walled" environment) proving they don't really care.

          Whereas Google has responded every time they've been attacked w/ better security methods to keep us safer. While Apple just continues to think it's invincible & in reality they are now coming apart at the seams. BUT.... you'll never hear that from them & they'll never admit to the numbers of accounts being hacked Right Now. Instead them and their Wall Street Cronies will continue to drive up AAPL stocks over their actual woth or value. Which is all in Soft Assets. They have no factories.... no hardware they actually make of their own and they didn't even use their own design teams. Instead they had LG simply shrink the die process ofr Retina, because they knew Samsung was going to 720p Super Amoled when their new factory opened. Apple simply chose to ride on the backs and depend on corporations like Samsung, Arm, LG, Broadcom etc to provide their innovations for them and claim them as their own. Samsung alone is responsible for over 50% of the cost of iPhone4. They designed and build A4 a clone of their own A8 w/ different instruction sets ONLY. While Apple continues to distort the truth like in faked Gigahertz Wars, etc. While still earning ridiculous profits from selling those same parts as bundled in fake Rolex cases as inventions of their own!

          Do you people out there buying their crap, honestly think they deserve to make 100's of percent profits over what other companies sell similar products for? It's all marketing and the push from Wall Street Bulls and Apple to drive up profits artificially. Like some Mexican in Tijuana selling the one and only last fake Rolex watch he has, only to pull out another after that one's been suckered!

          Apple's iPhone4 proves this point beyond all doubts. Pushing their Glitter Pimped lemon phone in Rolex clothing. But inside it has nearly the same identical parts and features as Samsung's Galaxy Series phones. But of course w/o the next gen features, Samsung and Android are designing the phone around. Case in point; Samsung makes their own quality cameras, but Apple goes on the CHEAP Budget crap. They even pick cheaper gyros while Samsung uses ones they make themselves for their Cameras. On top of that, they pick separate cheap last gen Broadcom radios to meet their budget and greed for profits. Whereas Samsung has Genuine Next Gen Parts and Features, that Apple won't put in until people wake up and realize their getting screwed!

          Galaxy Series are the real Next Gen Legends. First to have Super AMOLED Screens, built in DLNA hardware assisted Servers via WiFi b/g/n Direct (mobile to mobile w/o routers or hot spots), Newest BlueTooth 3.0 (DLNA capable) w/ speeds up to 10x that of iPhone's BT2.1 and an FM Transceiver that is being utilized to not only receive FM Broadcasts, but Broadcast to your home and car audio/radio systems. TV-Video Out via Headphone Jack, dedicated 3G VOIP (voice/video) Transmitter capable of sending & receiving live Video Conferencing over GIPS HD Engine (Google just Purchased). Which is what's powering Apple's "Facetime". Only they don't have the 3G chip to do it there! iPwn4 owners will be stuck with gimped "Fring" on 3G and only have high quality "Facetime" (GIPS Engine) over WiFi and that... not even Direct Phone to Phone, like Samsung Android Galaxy Phones and Tape Slates!

          Am I going to develop apps for Android? You better believe it. I've been waiting for an opportunity to finish up some Apps I was working on for Apple App Market. Now I'll have the tools to get them up almost overnight into Android market! :D
      • RE: Google's master Android plan: We're all mobile app developers now

        @dave95 I disagree. Basically both the appStore and the marketplace show the highest rated apps first, so the others are just "there" and only searchable by name for the most part. So it doesn't matter if they exist or not. Apple may have a more stringent approval process, but that doesn't mean it's necessary.

        @i2fun PERFECTLY STATED.
    • RE: Google's master Android plan: We're all mobile app developers now


      I was thinking a poor implementation of IB.
    • RE: Google's master Android plan: We're all mobile app developers now

      @andycher2 - This is probably more like the "Scratch" programming language/environment.
      • RE: Google's master Android plan: We're all mobile app developers now

        @billcheng - not probably, actually. If you read the App Inventor page it states that the tool utilizes the Open Blocks project used by the Scratch project
  • RE: Google's master Android plan: We're all mobile app developers now

    This article is in insult to mobile software developers everywhere. It's been tried and failed before, folks. Developing software in general is difficult, and developing mobile software apps is even more so. No, we are not all mobile developers. Just like we are not all doctors, lawyers, or auto mechanics. I love the comment above about this being similar to VB. VB and VB developers were a laughing stock of the development community back in the day, and rightfully so. But Microsoft used VB to increase it's desktop pc monopoly. That's all Google cares about. I say let them have at it.
    • What is your problem?


      You do NOT have to use them. If I get a kick out of programming a simple application on an Adroid phone, that somehow offends you because my app would not be up to your standards?

      Get over yourself.
      • RE: Google's master Android plan: We're all mobile app developers now


        Newsflash: he is not the one with the problem, he is not the one who has to "get over himself".

        Rather, he hit the nail on the head: app development IS hard, developing good apps is even harder. All these tools pretending to make it easy have the same value as those books/courses promising to teach a foreign language without memorization and without effort: none.

        Thinks "Ingles sin barreras" and all the failed promises of their ads!

        But of course, just as such books/courses continue to sell even after their record of failure, so there will always be suckers who buy into these reincarnations of Visual Basic.

        I suspect the fact that Google has attached so much fanfare to this project doomed to disappointing failure is a bad sign for the future of the company -- and for Android.
      • The problem is Overcrowding


        While I agree largely with powerpad9740's comments, I also agree that it's a cool thing if people can get a kick out of "programming" a simple app. It is pretty neat, and I can particularly see school kids getting a lot out of this.

        The problem is, the appeal for such apps will be limited largely to their creators. In other words, I'd be really surprised if even a small amount of apps created in this way were commercially viable/useful in some way. It's a fact that most consumers are fickle and most apps produced in this way won't meet their expectations (for a paid app at least). That may not sound like a problem, because as you say we can just ignore them if we want.

        It IS a problem, however, if too many of these throw-away apps crowd out the real quality apps that talented people spend lots of time/money on.

        Just my 2c.
    • RE: Google's master Android plan: We're all mobile app developers now

      @powerpad9740 - My daughter downloaded a free app for the iPhone call "Cake". All it does is displaying an image of a cake with no animation whatsoever. That's counted as one app for the iPhone! It is in the eye of the beholder!
  • RE: Google's master Android plan: We're all mobile app developers now

    There are a bunch of unique thinkers that can come up with great app ideas, but just don't know where / how to code one. This will really help those people out. I get approached often by people that want to build their thoughts as apps, but can't. They have great ideas and for the most part the true app is pretty simple. Having this tool will just fill the gap in. On the flip side we will also see thousands of coin flip apps or random number generator apps, etc.
    • RE: Google's master Android plan: We're all mobile app developers now


      That is what people said about Visual Basic way back when, too. It did not work out that way. Try to understand why.
      • RE: Google's master Android plan: We're all mobile app developers now

        I can understand having developed in VB for a while.
        What it did do was allow me as a user to develop some fairly sophisticated functionality I wanted and gave me much more insight and knowledge of the environment I was working with.

        It will foster enthusiasm and user knowledge for Android, just the opposite of the iOS that entreats you to become a "mushroom".

        [b]I for one am really looking forward to this![/b]
      • RE: Google's master Android plan: We're all mobile app developers now

        That failure wasn't because VB RAD tools and books were bad, that was because Visual Basic itself is a cr-p language which pays no attention to programming/design principles.
  • I can't help but to wonder. While they are gung-ho on becoming the #1 App

    store - with this tool the level of crap out there will rise greatly. Think what MS & VB did for Office it opened up a world of "programming" to non-technical people to automate and connect "stuff". Most of it was crap because they didn't have the technical thought process. Good ideas, often great ideas, poor or disastrous execution. Is Google setting the same thing up here? I don't know, but I can't help to think that while they may easily pass Apple up withthe most Apps out there, how many of them are going to be even worth a penny, let alone your time and effort? And how will anyone know? Even Apple and all of their lock-in and over the top control has some really, really sad & crappy apps. It will be interesting.