Google has decided to drop App Inventor as part of its closure of Google Labs. The project is to be open sourced but there are doubts about whether or not this will be viable.
We all suppose that Google isn't going to be quite as mad as to drop many of the exciting and important projects in its winding down of Google Labs - but the fact that they are dropping App Inventor is proof that they could give up on almost anything.
App Inventor is a ground breaking way to create Android Apps and other phone makers probably wish they had a tool like it. Using it you can create apps simply by dragging and dropping programming blocks onto a design surface. It not only provides an idea way to prototype apps, it is a great way to get children into programming and some of its creations are good enough to be used for real.
A few weeks ago it seemed much more likely that Google would graduate App Inventor from Labs and make it a full product. The worry was that Google might try to be too comercial about it and start charging for its use. Now we are told that it really isn't worth Google's time and effort.The Google Labs blog says it all:
With the winding down of Google Labs, Google will discontinue App Inventor as a Google product and will open source the code. Additionally, because of App Inventor’s success in the education space, we are exploring opportunities to support the educational use of App Inventor on an open source platform.
So the bad news is that App Inventor no longer has the power of Google behind it. The good news is that it is possible that it might arise from the ashes in the hands of a productive open source group. App Inventor is based on another open source project the Open Blocks Java Library which provides the core programming elements but the real question is will it attract the sort of support that it needs to be viable. At the moment there isn't a new website and there are not details of how to get involved in the project.
What is surprising about this is that App Inventor gave Google's Android a real edge in the education world and with a little more publicity and support it could have made a huge difference in the Android developer world. Now it's future is uncertain and it puts the closing of Google Labs into a whole new light. It was assumed tht the closure would turn out to be cosmetic with projects simply moved to other departments within Google. Now you have to conclude that there will be real casualties in the shake out.
So will App Inventor live on?
It certainly deserves to.
Announcement of the closure
Getting started with Android App Inventor
App Inventor: Create Your Own Android Apps
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