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When Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) introduced Android App Inventor this week, it touched on a theme long-promised but rarely delivered in tech: Anyone can create software.
We've heard this pitch before. In the '90s, a process called rapid application development (RAD) arose from the idea that code could be organized into chunks and represented as blocks in a visual interface. Combine enough blocks, and you've got functioning software, the thinking goes. (Don't take my word for it. Watch the introduction video for App Inventor.)
To this day, Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) and IBM (NYSE: IBM ) hawk RAD development tools for desktop software development. Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL ) and Sybase (NYSE: SY ) have RAD tools for creating software that functions with their varying databases.
What a difference the Web makes
Interestingly, RAD hasn't caught on with those creating online applications. Instead, web developers tend to write HTML and CSS code directly in text editors.
Here's why this matters: Mobile software is becoming webbier, thanks to smartphones that connect to Wi-Fi and 3G networks. So while I like Google's strategy here -- anything that boosts the amount of available Android software is a good idea -- I'm not convinced that App Inventor will do anything to increase production of complex, web-savvy Android apps.
That's my take. Now it's your turn to weigh in. Will App Inventor help Android close the app gap between it and the iPhone? Let the debate begin below.