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Apple Wants You to Be an App Developer

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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.

Fool contributor Alex Planes holds no financial position in any company mentioned here. Add him on Google+ or follow him on Twitter, @TMFBiggles, for more news and insights. The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft, Apple, and Google. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Adobe Systems, creating bull call spread positions in Microsoft and Apple, and creating a diagonal call position in Adobe Systems. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools don't all holdthe same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Read/Post Comments (2) | Recommend This Article (7)

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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On April 15, 2012, at 1:22 AM, techy46 wrote:

    "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."

    You can sketch an appliaction using Microsoft's PowerPoint presentation tool. You can draw screens with no code in Visual Studio. But as you say, the devil's in the details and so are the bucks.

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2012, at 11:28 PM, Clayton34 wrote:

    Have you heard of MEDL Mobile? They have a bunch of apps for iPhone/iPad

    ( but they also have a pretty cool technology that gives relevant recommendations based on your behavior. No other company has the technology to predict what other apps you will like (unless you download a separate survey/preferences app). MEDL does a nice job of including "prediction" in every app you download from its store, so it can recommend other cool things for you.

    Even Apple doesn't monitor in-app behavior! MEDL's database is going to be crazy valuable, they're estimating they can earn $25-35 PER USER and they're going to have almost 100M users within a year. $40M market cap now could quickly become a billion-dollar company. It's mobile! Look at Facebook, crazy isn't crazy anymore!

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