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Posted in tools of the trade, what really matters by hemmant jha on July 14, 2010

Google is bringing Android software development to the masses. NYT, July 11, 2010.

Now it might take the appearance of just 1 Android phone with the design integrity of the iPhone 4 to make this author, and Apple guy, an Android convert. Perhaps we’re seen as design snobs in some circles, but I prefer to think of us as ardent supporters of good design. With the same ferocity that we support good work, we shun mediocre work, some of which is on display in this unflattering graphic below.


App Inventor is here. In much the same way as my daughter builds palaces and skyscrapers from foam blocks and bits of Lego and Duplo, anyone can build the Android app that they want. Requiring no programming knowledge has just made me feel as confident about building apps as Leyla is about building a comfy bed for Barbie, which is to say, very.

In one fell swoop, Google has managed to turn what was just another smartphone platform into an immensely useful tool that can empower large numbers of people to be creative and playful. And this is a large pool of people indeed, it’s the same people who were, until now, intimidated by the technology of telephony as seen in smartphones – how many of you out there fit this mold? I’d say there are plenty who for whom the programming environment was incomprehensible, and now that barrier has been moved.

This is a brilliant move.

By doing this, Google has managed to differentiate themselves from Apple in a way that has no direct points of contention – it’s not about speed, stability, look and feel, who copied whom. The ‘open’ platform has been made open in a way that Apple cannot compete with directly. To do so would be in direct conflict with their approach. Apple has always believed in keeping close control over their operating system and accessibility to their devices, in order to maintain the high quality of the Apple experience. Suddenly, the very control that has kept my Apple devices humming smoothly, and which I’ve appreciated, feels a tiny bit too controlling.

And there are ways that Apple could do something along the lines of App Inventor, or maybe someone will write an iPhone app that allows others to create their own apps? Possible? Possibly.

As pretty talented designers, we have no shortage of ideas – it’s been the specialized coding that has held us back at times – the time and investment needed, the back-and-forth in languages not native to us. No more. This is such a liberating feeling – but I’ll save feeling giddy for when I know that this system works as promised.

May the free and easy creation of apps begin.

I’d love to get in on the action as well, as soon as there’s an Android phone of Cupertino quality – no matter how enticing the platform and the software, tacky painted plastic and generally bloodless design just will not do. Now, if Google could see fit to release a do-it-yourself, open platform, carrier free Android device….how about it, Google? HTC? Sony? Samsung? Anybody? We’ll design it for you, no charge!

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