As transmedia pioneer Lance Weiler recently wrote in the pages of Filmmaker, mobile devices "offer opportunities for filmmakers to reach audiences directly, with little to no intervention from middlemen. While the selling of a film on iTunes requires a filmmaker to go through one or maybe two aggregators, it is possible to go direct to the App Store as long as the mobile app receives approval from Apple." But while Apple's iOS requires approval, Google's Android does not. Not only is Google's app marketplace more open than Apple's ecosystem, but Android has rapidly rising market share, and now Google is releasing App Inventor for Android, a new tool for creating applications with drag-and-drop simplicity -- no coding (or approval) required.
If you're not a programmer, have no fear: the New York Times notes that "[App Inventor] user testing has been done mainly in schools with groups that included sixth graders, high school girls, nursing students and university undergraduates who are not computer science majors." In fact, Google's launch video makes it clear just how user-friendly they're intending App Inventor to be:
Of course, there's a problem with allowing just anyone to create apps -- the Android marketplace, already disorganized and difficult to navigate, could see a deluge of low-quality applications. It's interesting to keep tabs on Google and Apple's dichotomous approaches to their app stores -- Google seems to want Android to be a free-for-all, whereas Apple dickishly insists on controlling and approving (or rejecting, as it were) everything. While I can definitely see potential drawbacks to Google's approach, as long as there are effective filtering tools implemented in the marketplace -- sort by popularity, for example, not to mention an actual marketplace on the web, instead of only on devices -- App Inventor should help rather than hinder Google's mobile platform.
Google "will be granting access to App Inventor for Android over the coming weeks" -- right now, a simple email sign-up form is all that is offered. In the meantime, any ideas for apps for your next project? The possibilities are endless -- use GPS sensors to discover where your audience is located, use polls to receive feedback on episodes or trailers, send text messages to users in a low-end alternate reality game. I say "low-end" because only time will tell how advanced App Inventor can get. But it should certainly be a good tool for getting one's feet wet with mobile applications, which will undoubtedly play a larger and larger role going forward for any kind of independent creative.
Link: App Inventor for Android