Google's App Inventor: More needed duct tape for our digital world

When something gets modular, the opportunity to create many more innovations skyrockets.  Hundreds, or thousands or millions of inventors can give something a try and then the market can sort out what works and what does not.  Years ago in an interview in the Wall Street Journal I said that I wanted the cell phone to be more open.  Well, with the advent of the iPhone and now the Android phones from Sprint, Verizon and TMobile, we are starting to get a fast moving hardware platform that is setting the stage for many new applications. In the past few days Google has announced its App Inventor system that seems to have a very easy to use application builder.  In some ways it looks like previous "building block" types of software development platforms, but with the billions of portable phones and the active ecosystem of devices -- along with the subsidies by the telecommunications carriers to get these newer tools in the hands of consumers, I'm more optimistic than ever that we will FINALLY have a more vibrant innovation ecosystem for the phone.  It may become the duct tape of the mobile phone software world.

The thing that makes me most optimistic is the fact that Google put us an introductory video that shows a woman making a small application for her cell phone that allows her to touch the picture of her cat on her phone and it meows her cat's meow.  When people can easily do silly things like turn their cat into an icon on their phone, then the programming environment is facile enough to make it simple for people to do real things.

I believe that Twitter is another example of a simple, modular kit to fill in the cracks of our information experience.  Put another way, we are so linked to our devices and our information environments now that many of us hunger for those simple tools where we can make changes to our environment.  We want these digital duct-tape solutions so that we can weave together our own, personal experience -- and link to the inventions of others.  I also think its cool that Google is testing the environment out with grade school kids; those too early in their careers to have low expectations of their software ability...

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