Google's App Inventor… the new rapid prototyping tool.

Yesterday Google announced the App Inventor for Android, which is basically a drag and drop GUI for making Android Apps.  Immediately blog posts fill with “all the apps will be crap”, “how do I hide these apps”, “nothing good will come of it”, etc comments.

Firstly I think the people with this attitude are bit full of themselves.  Why, because a lot of apps on both Symbian and Iphone are just templates and are well crap.  They are the ones that have low ratings, but make up the numbers.  The numbers is what people trot out when talking about how cool their ecosystem is.  I’m a big fan of quality of quantity myself.  Not that I am saying that Android has the quality, not yet.  I am frustrated that a lot of apps that are on Itunes are just hollow shells on the Android platform.

I can however see two major uses for it. The first is I can custom make quick apps to do something only I need.  It doesn’t have to look pretty, it doesn’t need a good UX, it just needs to be quick and dirty and work.  So I am sure my phone will fill up with these kind of apps, just for me and knocked out in 5 min.

The bigger one though is prototyping, and rapid prototyping.  This tool will give not just high end programmers the ability to make an app, but a much wider community.  How often have to encountered people in your own organisation with a great idea who can’t get it up because they can’t even show you a wireframe of their idea.  Many of the projects I have done over the years have started life as a series of boxes on a screen, boxes that pull in, mash up and output content.  Of course the best ideas still need graphic design, UX, UI etc.  Those that have that ability or access to those skills will take their projects from the mundane to the extraordinary.  But now Android has a tool that can be used inside a business to show what can be done.  Selling a concept to your manager via a wireframe PDF or an interactive document are very different propositions.  The ability to interact gives feedback to the user, even in prototype stage.

The faster you can make a prototype the faster you can see if a project is even going to work.  A rapid prototyping tool can save weeks of development when you can quickly find the issues in software, issues that could make or break the complete development cycle.

The most bizarre thing about the google post about the software is that they don’t even mention this functionality on the main page.


Thinking about this some more…  Google have just opened up a dev environment to the Lego Mindstorm kids… and lots of other kids as well. Forget shelling out $100 to Apple, Google is free.  When you are 16 and living on pocket money $100 is a lot! This really is a big game changer. Kids (and adults) will be able to make an App just for themselves or their close social network and distribute that app to them.  Millions of these apps will be created and the vast majority of them will never see the light of day on the App Store.  Why because you don’t need the App store to distribute them just a USB cable.  In many respects the breaking down of the App store may well be the liberation that the platform needs to break into the mass market.

Further to my first point, granularity is said to be king in this modern internet world.  When people can make an App for 1 or 2 people, then granularity has traction.  Drag and drop for interface functions means ease of build, which opens up these micro markets.  Micromarkets means developers working on your platform and not the oppositions. All this leads to market share (over the long term).  Google are a long term player and this when compared to Apple shutting down “Flash Developers”, shows where Google are heading.


I for one am really looking forward to this new tool from Google.

Here is the video…

One Response to “Google's App Inventor… the new rapid prototyping tool.”

  1. I heard about it and thought good idea, nice post on it.

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