Google’s announcement yesterday that it is offering a ‘Do-It-Yourself’ (DIY) app creation software tool for the Android platform is the company’s latest effort to transform this market from a high-profile, cruising bandwagon into a 20-ton speeding juggernaut.

With the general public release of App Inventor for Android, Google wants to encourage ’anyone’ (described in a blog posting as programmers, non-programmers, professionals and students) to create mobile applications for Android-powered devices. Reflecting on the initiative’s recent year-long testing phase, the same Google posting claimed that the company has “observed people taking pride in becoming creators of mobile technology and not just consumers of it.”

The tool enables DIY developers to ‘drag and drop’ chunks of code, which represent different functions, into a template of sorts, creating a unique application on that smartphone. Consumers with no knowledge of Java (Android’s app programming language) could become first-time app creators. And the knock-on effect for Google’s Android community would be huge.

Fortune blogger Seth Weintraub calculates that if only 1 percent of Android phone buyers create an application, Android’s application store would grow by 1,600 apps every day. That’s well over half a million additional apps created every year; more than five times the total number of apps available at present in Android Market. With Apple’s App Store totalling almost 250,000 apps, even Weintraub’s  conservative 1 percent takeup estimate would see Google soon trump its fierce rival in the apps numbers battle. Of course, very few of these new apps are likely to be serious revenue-generators for Google, but this won’t faze the Mountain View company in the short-term. By giving consumers the ability to create their own apps, Google is potentially nurturing the commercial developer of tomorrow.

And for those consumers who do make the move to becoming developers, the Android platform seems unlikely to disappoint. A report released last week by VisionMobile, supported by Telefonica Developer Communities, was full of praise for Google’s OS. Compared to seven other rivals (including Apple’s iOS), Android was found to be “consistently the fastest platform to develop on, with few exceptions across both novice and expert developers.” The report talked up Android’s ease-of-use for development, and debugging on Android was also declared to be faster than on any other platform. These benefits have helped Android become the most popular platform with mobile developers in only two and a half years since its inception, with VisionMobile’s report finding that nearly 60 percent of all mobile developers had recently worked on Android.

Google is already reaping the rewards of adopting an open-source architecture for Android. By opening up its technology to all kinds of developers it is now writing another chapter in its tussle with Apple.


Justin Springham, Managing Editor

The editorial views expressed in this article are solely those of the author(s) and will not necessarily reflect the views of the GSMA, its Members or Associate Members