Tag Android

Is Bigger Always Better?

Really liking my new HTC One S…It’s fast, great screen and most importantly the camera works impressively well in low light.

Though I have to say these new, larger screens are great to look at but makes it hard to operate with a single hand. Even the HTC One S’s 4.3″ screen is hard to reach the far corners without moving your hand in ways that compromises your grip. Ironically, Android 4+ has moved primary controls into action bars on opposite ends of the screen.

After using the One S all weekend I had to see if this issue was all in my head and thankfully it wasn’t. My older (and much complained about) LG G2X (4″ screen) fits nicely in the palm of my hand and I can reach the entire screen without compromising my grip. To show what I mean I’ve created this map of what I can reach with my left thumb while holding the phone comfortably in my left hand and not compromising my grip.

Is anyone else experiencing this? Have you switched to using two hands to use your phone? Will Apple stick with the smaller form factor and use reach as their reason?

Steve Jobs – The Pot & The Kettle

No one can deny Steve Jobs did great things for Apple. Not only was he a founder, but he brought them focus and drive to create some of the most beloved/mimicked products to come out in the last few years (read: decade). Still, Jobs wasn’t living in a vacuum and as much as Apple innovated things they also took the best features from what was already out in the market.

So when I read about Jobs vent about his deep anger with Google (or his personal vendetta against Adobe) it makes Jobs look more of a petty, spoiled boy throwing a tantrum rather then the visionary we all respect him for. And it’s true in many ways Jobs was a spoiled brat with a giant frail ego, but his personality short comings are less memorable then his contributions and I hope in memory it’ll stay that way.

Jobs tears into Google in upcoming biography

Weekly Rewind: the mobile continuum

With all the hype and speculation surrounding the iPhone being released for Verizon and today being the launch day for Window Phone 7 in the US…Samsung and Verizon steal the limelight with releasing the new “dual-screen” Continuum. It’s actually one screen, divided into two parts via the default Android buttons. It’s not a half bad idea, especially the stealing the lime light part.  Interestingly enough Verizon has once again added Microsoft’s Bing search tool to the Android based phone (read: Google).

Engadget’s First Look
PC Wolrd’s First Impressions

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Also cutting into Microsoft’s big day was an announcement that Gingerbread, the next version of the Android operating system, would be available to Nexus One owners in the next few days. The best part was that this announcement came in the form of a Twee at.

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Last week Blekko, a new search engine was launched. Co-created by Rich Skrenta, who also founded the Open Directory Project back in the 90′s. With a quest to “clean up the web” from garbage content, Blekko filters out content farm content as well as allowing you to filter the results through the query string itself. I gave it a few tries. It’s clean and seemed to do what they suggest. Check out the NY Times if you want to know more about the history and how to get the most from Blekko.

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This should be entertaining for anyone in technology that saw the Social Network or knows someone that has.

Weekly Rewind: Viral Gamification

The battle for the mobile space is fierce as ever and according to Adobe’s recent survey users prefer a the mobile web for shopping and media rather then downloading apps. Though the same survey showed for single goal oriented tasks (social media, games, etc.) apps were preferred. Hopefully this will help guide companies into making decisions on where and how best to reach their customer’s needs. See the press release for more stats from the survey.

If you looking to get out there an promote your product/site you have a few options for building up the buzz, and SocialTwist’s new report on viral stats may be a good place to start. According to the report 55% of referrals come via email, 24% from social media and 18% through IM. Though that’s not the whole story, when it comes to click-throughs Social is king with 60%, followed by email’s 31%. Twitter is earning around 19 clicks per link, to Facebook’s 2.9 clicks per link. Lastly sharing is dominated by Facebook at 78%. What does all this mean? Each service has it’s strengths and to maximize your viral potential you’ll need to work them all.

Want more numbers…well Tweetdeck’s got you covered. They looked at the Android ecosystem to see product penetrations and found over 500 different phone models and around 120 different OS versions.  On one side it shows how fragmented the Android market is, on the other it shows how well Android handles that fragmentation. Feels like history repeating itself (Windows/Mac).

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Search gets social as Facebook goes with Bing as it’s search partner. According to Yusuf Mehdi, a senior vice president for online business at Microsoft, Bing’s results will soon be biased by the number of “likes” a link has received from your Facebook friends. It’s not a surprise that Facebook didn’t team up with Google as they are reportedly working on their own social platform. Though Mark Zuckerberg points out that with Bing being the underdog they are going to work harder, innovate more. He expands on this point in the Q&A event post the announcement. The New York Times also points out that Places uses Bing’s maps rather then Google’s as well.

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Cupertino must be celebrating after winning a patent on the “pinch-to-zoom” gesture. Though the patent is very specific and doesn’t pertain to all pinch-to-zoom gestures only those that are followed by an additional gesture to continue the zooming (figure 4A in the patent application). Still this is one more weapon in Apple’s legal arsenal…along with the 17 other patents they were awarded on Oct 12.

Apple is already suing HTC over 20 patents that according to Apple the manufacturer is infringing upon. As of this week, HTC is no longer alone in this fight. Motorola has decided to back HTC in this fight and is pushing for the entire suit to be thrown out of court on the basis that they are invalid. Separately, Motorola is suing Apple over patent infringements of their own.

Aside from the patent wars there is a growing number of designers/developers questioning the app craze in favor of web-based solutions that work across all the platforms. Zeldman, a constant advocate for standards, offers a succinct argument that the iPad has become the new Flash. Personally, I don’t think he’s too far off the mark but not only from the coding aspect but as far as UI’s. Just like with Flash there are many iPad designs based solely on showing off this, that or the other thing rather then providing a good, easy to use UI. Ultimately, it was the show-off designs and poor user experience that became the poster boy for the anti-Flash community. Sure it’s not a open standard, but it is a standard that is supported by 96+% of the users out there. Every tool has it’s purpose just like the iPad and platform specific apps have there place.

One thing not to be missed from Zeldman’s editorial is the link to LukeW’s Touch Gesture Reference Guide.

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Who doesn’t like to play games now every once and a while? Since everyone likes games adding game elements to your site is the latest/greatest way to build synergies with your customer/user and solves just about every business ask. So next time you’re solutioning a business problem think about tossing a progress bar in there.

Ok, so that’s not really a good idea after all, but I’m sure it’ll come up just like all the other buzzwords. When it does offer to take a breather and play a few rounds of Progress Wars. Adding game mechanics to your site is more complicated then offering badges and progress bars. My buddy @Arpit recently posted his notes on Game Mechanics, a collection of links, books and a great SlideShare (Pawned. Gamification and its Discontents) on the subject. One great item from Pawned is “Games are not fun because they’re games, but when they are well-designed.” So what Is Gamification? @Adachen gives an excellent breakdown of the different types of games and how they are being used.

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  • What is BLADE? It’s a new anti-maleware app that blocks websites from launching their services just by you visiting their page. BLADE will be a must have for any Windows user (once it’s released). I know once it’s available I’ll be installing it on my mom’s computer ASAP.
  • Calling themselves the Internet DVR is a bit of a stretch, but if you like YouTube videos enough to want to keep them Dirpy maybe for you.
  • Love Flickr but don’t have the time to explore all it’s goodness then check out Flickr for busy people.

Week in Links: Facebook Groups, Windows Mobile and Google TV

The Social Network still commands the box office but that’s not the only reason Facebook is toping the list this week. Earlier this week they announced they were adding Groups, a tool to download your data, and tighter privacy control over apps.

The idea of groups isn’t anything new but unlike Yahoo or Google’s offerings this one is connected through Facebook. And though this is an obvious fact, this little factor is a huge differentiating point between the services. With the other group services you would have to go out of your way in order to participate. It wasn’t part of most users daily routine and slowly but surely members would trickle away beginning the group’s downward spiral into obscurity. Facebook on the other hand is where the people already are. It’s simple, integrated and most importantly it’s where your friends are, so there is no searching for emails or additional sign-ups needed to get started. Additionally their new groups feature provides a way to control who sees what. This alone is a huge step forward for Facebook and for those that could really use some discretion. See the SNL skit above for an entertaining example of this problem.

The second new feature is less of a dramatic but another big step forward in Facebook privacy.  Granted downloading all your activity, photos and posts doesn’t increase your privacy but it does provide a window into all the information Facebook does have on you and may change how much info you post in the future.  I don’t see many people making use of this feature anytime soon, but should a new social service spring up the ability to import some of this data may give that service a pretty big jump start. Also related to privacy and controlling your data is Facebook’s new application dashboard. The new dashboard provides users the ability to see and limit what applications have access to and what they’ve accesses last. Now you can see if Farmville is going to market with your personal data.

In a related note, according to a recent study of 10 modern countries most children will have an online footprint by the age of 2, this includes baby photos. The study was conducted by AVG, a security firm that deals with identity theft. The firm suggest people be more cautious when posting information online and to make use of available privacy settings.

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Also high on the pop culture meter is Gap’s crappy new logo (shown on left). It doesn’t take an art/design major to see how big of a step bag this is from their earlier logos. The only positive thing I can say about it is it’s generating a ton of promotion. My favorite quote regarding the new logo comes from Brand New, a design blog, “I’m not one to critique something by saying it looks as if it were done in Microsoft Word but this one is just too unsophisticated to warrant anything more than that.” Can’t get enough of the new logo, check out craplogo.me to make your own Gap inspired logo.

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Even on the eve of Microsoft’s release of Windows Phone 7 the Android platform is dominating the mobile press. Even without the skyrocketing success of Android (top selling smartphone in the US – GigaOm), Microsoft has their work cut out for them if they want to be a player in the mobile market. Newsweek did an extended article on the Android and how it came to be. One interesting factoid in the article was how Google has made enough on mobile search to pay for the development of the Android OS.  So sometimes giving something away is a great way to make money. Also, by Google making Android free, handset manufacturers are more apt to a device to support it as the reduced cost means more profit for them.

On Monday (10-11-2010), Microsoft unveiled 10 devices that support WP7 to the masses and from the early reviews they’re a competitive option. Wp7 is a complete overhaul of their mobile platform and is based on their Metro UI guidelines which influenced this year’s youth targeted Kin, which died a quick death. Hopefully WP7 won’t suffer the same fate. Though I haven’t gotten to play with a device personally, it offers a new paradigm for mobile UI’s that has me intrigued. The bright, flat colors aren’t my favorite, but the split structure of the main desktop, the transitions, the use of type in the design are all unique…but are they enough? Will they resonate with consumers? Working against them is the success of both iOS and Android, while the current lack of a Verizon or Sprint based phone means they’ll still be pushing Android as the ultimate mobile platform to their customers. Top that with confirmation that there will be a Verizon iPhone in early 2011. For more details on the WP7 launch check out Engadget’s WP7 launch guide.

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Apple seems to be in everyone’s sights, with Android and WP7 going after the iPhone. Now the big wigs are Microsoft and Adobe are meeting though what’s to come of the talks is still unknown. And Google just launched the website for their Google TV, that competes with the AppleTV. Like many of the set-top boxes they support Netflix, Flickr, YouTube etc., but what new is that there’s a full featured web browser (including Flash 10.1 support), so theoretically it supports any online service. Though surfing the web on your TV has never been a hit, so Google is requesting sites to make a “lean back” version, which YouTube has had in Beta for some time. Some of Google TV’s big wins include: Android OS based, use of your phone as a remote control, surf-and-browse (a P-i-P of web and video), personalization, and a playlist feature that works across various video sites. Not sure what the price tag is looking like, but I assume it’ll land in the vicinity of the AppleTV, if not the war may already be lost. The potential $400 referenced in Engadget’s guide to Google TV seems excessive, especially with Xbox, Playstation and mini PC’s are all cheaper and do more.

Week in Links: Land Grabs, New Territories and Stats

The big news of last week was AOL buying Techcrunch. I first read it on GigaOm and it was followed up with a ton of tweets in the morning once it went public at Techcrunch’s Disrupt event. Less shocking they also bought Brizzly and 5min, picking up all three for @ $100 million. The funniest tweet I read about the purchase “TechCrunch: The sound you hear when you break those AOL CDs you got in the mail.” Hopefully this doesn’t mean the beginning of the end for Techcrunch.

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After the new AppleTV was announced the other set-top devices will need to increase their offerings if they want to compete. Last week Roku and TiVo announced they would be supporting Hulu Plus, a premium subscription service for $9.99 a month. There has already been support for Netflix, also subscription based ($8.99+) which provides instant streaming of content across multiple platforms. So why Hulu? Hulu Plus has the latest TV shows while Netflix covers the back catalog. It won’t be long before Hulu Plus makes it’s way to the other internet connected devices but for now it’s Roku and TiVo which isn’t a bad place to start. Personally, I think Hulu Plus is a step back for the consumer. As Hulu Plus expands what’s available for Hulu’s ad supported content will shrink. Especially when the Plus still comes with ads.

Then there’s Google TV, who launched their website on Monday and officially throwing their hat into the ring. Some of the big features include a full web browser, ability to show TV and web at the same time (PiP), “Fling” from your phone to your TV, and expandability via the Android app marketplace. Below is Google’s promo video giving a quick walk-through of it’s features. If you’re looking to figure out which set-top device is for you check out this comparison chart.

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After looking at the newTwitter via my coworkers and screen shots, I finally got to play with the newTwitter myself. It’s a much improved experience, it rivals that of some third party apps though it’s not enough to make me switch. Other then bringing the web app back to the web, the newTwitter is smartly designed. With relevant info displayed directly next to the content it relates to. One complaint is conversation view as it only shows one step of the conversation at a time and requires you to keep clicking in order to read the entire thing. Another is it took me forever to find the URL to a specific status (it’s the publish date). There’s keyboard shortcuts that is a huge perk for power users. One thing I didn’t know was that it’s design is based on the Golden Ratio.

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Interesting data coming out of LukeW’s Data Mondays, this time around it was about the disproportionate activity that comes from iPhones. With only 4% of the global market the iPhone is 33% of the world’s mobile browser activity. See these and more on his post. Though I’m sure Android will start sharing some of this traffic as it’s market share grows. T-Mobile will be annoncing their G2 phone and Samsung’s Galaxy line is already wooing people. If you’re looking for an Android phone Gizmodo has a quick flow chart to help you figure out which one is right for you.

Week in Links: Apps, Ideas and Reality

Top 10 Twitter AppsApple’s “there’s an app for that” marketing has been causing companies to go app crazy and forget that a websites are still the primary point of interaction for users.  A few weeks back the folks at Twitter reminded people that despite the fact that the heavy users all use 3rd party apps (desktop or mobile) the majority of users (78%) use Twitter.com. This week the folks at Twitter launched a new version of Twitter.com that features a number of elements that were previously only available in the app world.  They added a dynamic side panel to showcase user profiles and conversation view all while not disturbing the core of what Twitter.com was.  They’ve brought the sophistication of the external apps to the masses and with this they may have inadvertently signaled the return to web apps. For those that haven’t gotten the (rolling) invite to the new site check out TechCrunch’s overview “Best subtle things about new Twitter“.

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A week doesn’t go by without Google making an announcement about something or other. This week they get their Google Voice app back on the iPhone. MacRumors gives a detailed run through of the app. Looks like Google has cleaned up their UI a bit with this version and offers just about everything the phone could do with the addition feature of translating your voice-mails into text. The one thing it can’t do at the moment is MMS, otherwise for $2.99 you can double the number of phones in your pocket without the bulk.

Also Google related is the steady growth of their Android platform, which is now 17% of the smartphone market. To put that in perspective the iPhone is at 24% and RIM’s BlackBerry commands 39%. Also note that the overall smartphone market has grown and these numbers are percentages of that growing market (data from Wired).

Part of Android’s success is it promotion from Verizon not having the iPhone to promote and instead needing to compete with it. Now Verizon wants a bigger cut of the action and has opened their own app marketplace. They say it’s for improved customer choice, but I’ll go with control and money.

While Android is growing into the third largest smartphone platform Nokia held it’s Nokia World 2010 event. They boasted that Nokia has a larger market penetration then Apple and Android combined, the threat is clear (as in they’re threatened). They followed their showcase of facts with info on their latest models, the N8 being the darling of the bunch. They flaunted “they perform day in and day out no matter how you hold them,” an obvious dig on the iPhone4. Then went into talking about the latest advances in Symbian and coding for it. Sadly, for US customers as nice as Nokia’s equipment is, if no carrier picks them up they don’t exist.

Final reference to Google (for this week) is their recent site/blog conveniently called Google New where they are posting all their latest products/projects. And by the looks of it they’ve been busy.

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FCC is looking at opening up some radio frequencies, one of the selling points for opening these frequencies is the potential for Super WiFi. The are suggesting that this new Super WiFi would be able to travel farther and through buildings due to the longer wavelengths.

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“Flash is dead, long live HTML5/CSS3.” Ever since Steve Job’s BS’ed his reasons why he didn’t want Flash on the iPhone this mantra of many front-end developers had some indisputable logic in regards to the mobile market. Now Android 2.1 supports Flash inside a browser as well as HTML5 true comparisons can finally be made. Based on the finding of Christopher Black’s tests (the video below) and a number of others Steve’s claims are no longer valid, if they ever truly were. So once again, developers have a choice as to what the right tool for the job.

Based on how the two technologies work it’s of little surprise, to me, that Flash (a platform based around animation) out performs HTML (which is designed around static structured layouts. Don’t get me wrong HTML/JavaScript have come a long way and in many ways fulfills the need that once only Flash could fill.

I’m impressed with how far HTML and JavaScript have come but structurally it’s not meant to do the animations etc. that Flash is specifically designed for. For me it’s about picking the right tool for the job and there are many factors that go into that choice, but jumping on a bandwagon shouldn’t be one of them…but I digress.

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Pencil Vs Camera - 24It’s so easy in the world of technology and tight time frames to skip some seemingly tangential steps in order get the product or design out in time. Sometimes we just need to be reminded that we need to get back to the basics. I know that one thing that often gets skipped are the rough little sketches, Spyrestudios has done a nice write up to remind us of the benefits of sketching (and wireframes) in fleshing out ideas and saving time. It’s also a great way to look back and see the progress of ideas and inspire new ones.

A different way to look back and see how things progressed is BookTwo‘s 12 book collection displaying the changes to the “facts” of the Iraq War over the course of 5 years. The concept is simple enough, collect all the changes to the Wikipedia page on the Iraq War in one place. What it reveals is anything but simple, more of antithesis of the Orwellian nightmare 1984, where news/history was rewritten with no trace of what was.  Then again, out side of BookTwo’s project how many people are looking into trail of changes that make today’s truth.

Returning to the temporal life where now is everything, context-aware computers will be a welcomed addition to the ever growing overflow of information. For years this has been an “up and coming” technology, now (read: once again) the researchers at IBM (and many others) are hoping the power of smartphones will provide the always on, GPS info and increased processing needed to make context-aware computers a reality. What’s interesting about all this technology and it’s promise still echoes some of the thoughts of Marshall McLuhan and Norman Mailer from the late 60′s. Beyond theory and technical abilities data sensitivity will also have to be addressed before the masses should be adopting little brother to guide them through life.

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The value of ideas is one that seems to fluctuate depending on personal circumstance. If you’re the creator of the idea, then the idea is everything. If you’re the producer of ideas (production) then it’s the implementation of the idea that matters most. So which is it? As someone that straddles both sides it’s not any simpler to define. Like most things in life the truth lies in the gray area between the extremes. Recently, my buddy Arpit delivered his take on this topic and I think he’s on to something…iteration. A back and forth between pure concept and implementation. Love the connection to dogfighting as a example of idea->action proving iteration is the actual key to success (courtesy of Jeff Atwood’s own post on the subject).

Week in Links – Places everyone

Maybe one of the biggest announcements of the week surround Facebook Places becoming a reality. Facebook held a live, streaming event to announce they were getting into the location check-in game. Rather then take on the two biggest social location services Facebook is actually working with Foursquare and Gowalla. They will soon have an API for other location services to use as well. Almost instantaneously there were people referencing FB as Stalker’s Paradise.  Clearly with Places as an auto-opt-in service it could be yet another privacy concern.  If you want to block your friends from being able to “place” you Bill Cammack entertainingly walks you through the steps.  If you have the Facebook app for iPhone or use touch.facebook.com you can start using Places now.

Even before iOS4 came out and crippled my iPhone 3G, I’ve been leaning towards switching over to Android. Before I make the switch I’m bringing my 3G back to life by reverting it back to iOS3, here’s how. If you want an idea of what it’s like to switch, my buddy Arpit, wrote about his first month with Android covering some of the differences between the two platforms both as a user and a developer. A concern of many developers is if Android is a viable market place, Aaron La gives details on his experience with his Advanced Task Manager app. At $10,000 a month in supplemental income I’d say he’s doing pretty good.

Verizon has been having a good few weeks. More rumors about the iPhone coming out for the Verizon network, though I wouldn’t run to far with that one just yet. They did announce their new HD guide for FiOS subscribers. I don’t have FiOS but I’m glad to see one of the biggies pushing those Motorola boxes into the 21st century.  The current set top box that powers America’s TVs features technology that’s nearly a decade old.

They also boasted about there upcoming iPad app that’s will work as a second screen as part of their TV Everywhere.  They also talked about updating their VOD experience.  Comcast and Time Warner are also working on iPad apps.  Comcast showed their prototype  earlier this Spring at the Cable show and Time Warner shows theirs in this YouTube clip. If you’re not up to speed on TV Everywhere check out GigaOm’s Everything You Need to Know About TV Everywhere.

Though not everything has gone as Verizon would like.  Their new “rule the air” campaign is targeting women with the chance for equality, through Verizon of course. See the commercial and a great rant from TechCrunch’s Alexia Tsotsis.

In the most recent issue of Wired, they proclaimed that the web is dead. So of course the retorts started to follow, Boing Boing uses Wired’s own numbers to show that the Web is alive, well and growing nearly exponentially.  Then again they said Print was dead, Rock was dead…Technologizer has a collection of the death of everything.

To end here’s a beautiful time-lapse video of the Perseid Meteor Showeras seen from Joshua Tree National Park and taken by Henry Jun Wah Lee .

Week in Links: It’s Not Google’s week

Late last week there was an article via the NY Times asking “Could a deal between Verizon and Google destroy any chance for Net Neutrality”.  Instead, Google and Verizon called for a press conference on Monday to explain what they’ve been working on. Based on Google’s (and Verizon) blog with their post titled “A joint policy proposal for an open Internet” they spell out that it’s quiet the contrary. Later in the week Google then countered the many concerns about Google selling out or undermining the system.  The NY Times continues to question the proposal and “Who gets priority on the web?” What it all really means is yet to be seen but makes me wonder if this is a dig at Comcast and their win against net neutrality earlier this year.

Google is also getting some heat from Oracle as well.  This time it’s their Android platform that is getting the heat, more precisisly Google’s version of Java that runs it. Daniel Eran Dilger takes Google to town in his long but engaging article “How Oracle might kill Google’s Android and software patents all at once.” Charles Nutter gives a different point of view in his “My Thoughts on Oracle v Google.”

Apple also had some patent fun this week when they published an exact copy of FutureTap’s Where To app inside one of their patents.  Where To has been around since the first generation of iPhone. Apple and FutureTap have worked things out, mostly just a failure to credit rather then a stealing of ideas.

Power to the People

With App Inventor, Google has put the power into the people’s hands. One no longer needs to learn a complicated computer language in order to turn their idea into something real. This is a polar opposite to the approach Apple has taken with their most recent terms of service (v3.3.1), which made for many headlines on how they cut Flash from being a potential development platforms for the iPhone. Will App Inventor empower the masses or as Job’s stated (regarding flash based apps) flood the market with substandard applications?

More then likely there will be a hundreds of quickly put together dumb and/or kitschy apps. Ideally this is where Darwin’s laws of survival will come into play filtering out the deluge of iFart type applications. On the flip side, there will also be some quality apps that may not have seen the light of day if it weren’t for the reduced skill set needed to create them. In general, I see App Inventor being used by designers and developers to quickly prototype an idea before having it developed via traditional methods.

Regardless of how App Inventor is ultimately used, it’s the democratization of technology that is the game changer.

Links:
Google App Inventor