While Apple continues to want to act as a major gatekeeper for apps on the iPhone, Google continues to go in the other direction with Android. Its latest trick is to release a super simple GUI interface for designing personal apps for Android phones
, with the idea of making it easy for anyone
to create some software. This has been the holy grail of quite a few projects over the years: this concept of "situated" software
. To date, most of the attempts to create such programming tools haven't gone very far (or, at the least, haven't been as widely adopted). Most of those tools have been for the desktop or the web, so it will be interesting to see if it's a different situation for smartphones. I would imagine one of the biggest barriers is mental, not technical, where people who just aren't programmers never even think of the idea of creating their own software. Still, it will be worth watching to see if anything useful comes from this offering. I like the fact that one student testing the program created a "LifeAlert-type" "Help, I've fallen!" app already, which uses the accelerometer on the phone to sense if someone is falling, and then automatically dials a number for help...