Have you ever wanted to be able to design your very own app for Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL ) iOS devices, but that darn lack programming ability just got in the way? Well, fear not! Cupertino's got your back.
A recent patent the company's filed (is there anything they won't send to the patent office?) explores a simple app-creation tool that replaces clunky coding with drag-and-drop simplicity. Just as earlier software suites from Adobe (Nasdaq: ADBE ) and Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) brought website design to the masses, Apple could make mobile development as simple as point-and-click. In theory, anyway.
I'm always in favor of anything that lets average Joes like me try their hand at making useful software, and if done right, the tool could even give Apple a boost over Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG ) Android, which continues to suffer from fragmentation problems. But I don't think any serious mobile-software company has any reason to worry about having those Joes horning in on their lucrative rackets.
Let's get real
Have you ever used a WYSIWYG editor? That clunky acronym stands for "what you see is what you get," and it conveys the supposed simplicity of editing complex code without getting lost in the weeds of the code itself. Website editors have been WYSIWYG for years, from Microsoft's early (and generally inferior) FrontPage to Adobe's deep roster of Creative Suite editing tools.
But the problem with this is that what you see might be what you get, but there's no guarantee it'll be what everyone else gets. Worse, if conflicts arise at the code level, the inexperienced have no way to fix their mistakes, because they rarely understand what's causing those mistakes in the first place. I spent many frustrating hours tweaking a website's design because my WYSIWYG editor showed me something different from what resulted in my Web browser.
There are reasons programmers tend to command big paychecks. Wrangling with complex code isn't something most people can do, and it's certainly not something most can do at a high level. While you may think Angry Birds is a boring one-dimensional game, you probably lack the skillset that not only developed that game's framework but also imbued it with the realistic physics that makes it compelling to most people. Having bright, eye-catching graphics certainly helped as well, and no WYSIWYG editor, graphical or not, can effectively replicate the talent of a savvy graphics designer.
Apple's concept, if it's brought to fruition, should even help the pros get their software to market faster, as quick demos can be put together without diving into the details right away. Since most mobile-app programmers already prefer iOS over Android, I can see this widening the availability gulf even further.
Android has its own WYSIWYG app creator, but that hasn't helped overcome the fragmentation problem or developer preferences. But then, Google's never been known for the kind of drop-dead simple usability that most people get from Apple's software. How much of a boost could Apple get? That'll depend on how good its editor is. Based on the company's software ease-of-use track record, the odds are that it'll be quite good indeed.
Apple could make good use of this editor in the future, but it won't need it to make a huge splash this earnings season. With record-breaking iPad sales, it could be on pace for another monster quarter -- and it's not the only company investors should watch closely in the coming months. Find out which stocks could pop when their earnings drop with The Motley Fool's brand-new exclusive report, available free for a limited time. Get your free information before those pivotal conference calls.