The Difference Between Tools and Talent (or what we can expect from Google App Inventor)

In: ideas

12 Jul 2010

The tech press is buzzing today with word that Google has just brought “mobile app development to the masses” with the launch of Google App Inventor. The company claims that the tool enables non-coders to develop apps for any phone running on the Android platform.

In a nutshell, App Inventor lets anyone assemble a mobile app by connecting a bunch of “blocks” of code. Apparently Google has been testing this new tool with students in different schools over the last year. The goal is to make mobile development as accessible as possible.

The Dark Side of WYSIWYG
One of the great things about the Internet has been that (in theory) anyone can participate and build websites through the use of what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) tools. But that has come with a price. The web is full of poorly-designed, poorly-constructed websites. Worse still is that there exists a belief among many people that everyone can design and build websites and that it “isn’t that hard” (anyone who has worked with clients will attest to this). This has led not only to a sea of mediocrity across the web, but also a perception problem regarding the skill and value of web designers and developers.

The New Microsoft Frontpage?
What will the Google App Inventor likely lead to? A whole slew of Android apps ranging in quality from decent to god-awful. I would be shocked to see many useful apps come from this tool. Building great products is about more than just having the tools to do it. Giving anyone the ability to produce these applications with a WYSIWYG platform will mostly lead to horrible results, much like Microsoft Frontpage lead to mostly horrible websites.

The Silver Lining
The upside here is that it will lead to increased interest in mobile development. Users will start to tinker with App Inventor before deciding to learn how to actually develop these types of applications, much like Frontpage and Dreamweaver introduced many of us to web development, enticing us to continue on and improve our skills. This promises to take mobile development out of the hands of a few and grow a much larger talent base.

Whenever you lower the barrier of entry to a platform, it usually floods the market with a lot of garbage. But it also provides an opportunity for true talent to rise above the rest. So I don’t expect great things from Google App Inventor, but I do expect to see great things from the people who got their start with it.

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Mark Webster

About Mark Webster

One of the Co-Founders of SideTour, former TechStar (NYC Summer 2011), ex-NBA'er, and past TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon Winner.