It was whilst researching HTML5 mobile phone development that I stumbled on ‘App Inventor’. App Inventor can be found in Google Labs. It’s a web based application that allows you to develop applications visually with ‘lego blocks’.
With the aim of helping children learn maths and computing, a few years back some very bright people at MIT set about building a visual programming language called Scratch. Instead of writing lines of code, you arrange lego blocks that represent events, actions and logic. For those working in the GIS space think FME or Model Builder. Google have now taken this work, and built upon it, with ‘App Inventor’. Drag and drop building blocks, from within your web browser, to build an application for your Android mobile phone – the web development environment even includes an emulator. Sounds good, but does it really work?
In short – Yes. It’s a beta service and you can only deploy to phones connected to your PC (no Android market place distribution yet). It’s a Google beta, which means comprehensive, robust, and well supported. Everything I need for my mobile apps, is already there, location awareness, read-write-web, rich user forms, local storage and graphics.
It’s remarkable that mobile phone applications can now be developed within hours. I hope Google continue to grow this initiative, and can only recommend you try it.