Unveiled yesterday, Google App Inventor aspires to provide everyday people - extensively tested with sixth graders - to easily build their own Android apps using a relatively simple WYSIWYG editor. The interaction model appears based on LEGO toys, taking different, interchangeable pieces and snapping them together to create a complete app. The New York Times exclusively introduced the service on Sunday night.
There has been considerable fallout and speculation from this latest product launch by Google. We've talked about Google extensively here, both from the standpoint of being the now and future computing superpower as well as their open philosophy to Android development in stark contrast to Apple's closed model. Many touts in the media see the Google App Inventor as a potentially "killer app" that could be the difference-maker in the mobile arms race between Google and Apple. Others are more measured but still believe Google App Inventor will have a major impact. I think both of these assessments are quite exaggerated. What Google has created is a tool that is akin to Microsoft Publisher in the 1990's, a piece of software that takes a task reserved for a skilled technical elite - in their case, publishing periodicals; in today's case, designing mobile apps - and allows even unsophisticated users to produce something with the potential to be usable, if not respectable.