Google Tries To Make It Easy For Anyone To Create Android Apps

from the will-apple-do-that? dept

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…

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Comments on “Google Tries To Make It Easy For Anyone To Create Android Apps”

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41 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

“I like the fact that one student testing the program created a “Lifelock-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…”

Sounds like a formula for false positives. If someone sits down too fast …

MrWilson says:

Re: Re:

You could program the app make a noise when it detects a possible fall to alert you to a potential false positive and then have it give you so many seconds to deactivate it before it calls for help. If you’re unconscious/paralyzed/writhing in pain, you wouldn’t be able to stop it from dialing.

There would still be a possibility of false positives getting through, but fewer with such a warning system.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Here is a (non patentable) idea someone can do to improve on the above.

If the meter detects someone fell too fast the phone can make a siren or other loud noise indicating a fall. If the phone possessor is OK s/he can pick up the phone and cancel the call out. If the possessor of the phone does not cancel the call within a reasonable period of time (some preset time, could be 3 min?) the phone calls out.

Also, one must consider the potential that the phone will break if someone falls or that the signal might not make it through if the person is down near the ground?

The phone possessor can have the option of determining a non response time duration before calling out and sudden velocity change/impact magnitude before the phone deems that someone fell.

Dean Landolt (profile) says:

“Sounds like a formula for false positives. If someone sits down too fast …”

Obviously you haven’t spent much time with the kind of people who would use such an app. Sitting down too fast? They may as well have fallen down. If the first number dialed is innocuous (caregiver of sorts) this is a non-issue. It’d be nice if there were a list of fallback contacts, finally landing on 911 if all else fails.

Anonymous Coward says:

More information

Is this similar to the iPhone 1.0 launch which only allowed widgets, or are there some real meat and potatoes to this IDE?

Mike, why don’t you provide a link to some of the tech specs? Otherwise, I see this as a fluff piece, and we’ll assume that 2007 just called, and Apple wants their widget development kit back.

CrushU says:

Geeking out a bit

I’m a programmer.

One of the common problems in programming in the business space is to make something ‘too generic’. The idea that you can take pieces of applications and plug them in, with specific orders, has been around for a long time, as your (really!) old posts indicate.

The problem comes that when you can do anything and everything with a system like this, people want to use it for everything at once, which makes a convoluted mess. That and it ends up being just as complicated as the original coding language used to make it. NOW, there is room for improvement sometimes, if you can make it less general and more specific for an application… But the tendency is to go the other route.

(Some reference. Careful, it may be hard for a non-programmer to understand:
http://thedailywtf.com/Articles/The_Inner-Platform_Effect.aspx (Basic description)
http://thedailywtf.com/articles/the-expert-system.aspx (Example of it becoming as complex as the language)
http://thedailywtf.com/Articles/The_Enterprise_Rules_Engine.aspx (Example of it becoming a convoluted mess, with the correct ‘non-generic’ code being presented succinctly at the top for extra irony points.))

mjb5406 (profile) says:

Re: Geeking out a bit

As a developer, I disagree with your assessment. A well crafted RAD tool can (and has in the past) generated elegant code; if anything, it prevents the developer from making the code more convoluted and senseless because the “building blocks” use predetermined code fragments that cannot be changed or embellished by the end-user. As a result, for example, 2 different developers that use the same building blocks but linked in different ways will create underlying code that, while having a different execution sequence, will contain the same lines of code. I don’t believe Google intends for this to replace the SDK; in fact, I think that if you examine programs currently in Android Market that have been developed using the SDK you’ll find far greater instances of inelegant, and downright sloppy, code, since many casual developers do not employ any sort of coding methodology (not even for things like standard variable names). In RAD, however, those things are taken care of by the environment and, if properly implemented, will often provide a better code base than hand coding will.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Geeking out a bit

I am not really a developer but I agree with mjb5406. This program will not replace a traditional SDK but it can provide a gateway to use. Although there are examples of this “modular” programming model failing, I would put things like Visual Studio in that category and that has been fairly successful. Also, the higher level lanuages are “modular” in that they end up writing machine code. I think most of use humans are grateful we don’t have to use assembly when performing a division function.

BTW I already requested to use the beta this morning after I read the first story on it.

CrushU says:

Re: Re: Geeking out a bit

I do want to clarify that I don’t think this is in general a bad idea or a bad thing, just that there are temptations inherent in creating something like this that can cause it to become convoluted and unusuable.

Indeed, there are a few examples of where it works. (I can even think of a couple of games that used this concept.) And come to think of it, this is a pretty smart move, because at some point, new coders will want to do something this new tool doesn’t allow with its building blocks, so they will look at the actual SDK for building more complex designs.

The only warning is that saying that this interface prevents developers from making code that is more convoluted is not true. Trust me, people will make things convoluted in any programming language, even gui-based ones. 🙂

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Geeking out a bit

Scratch from MIT did a pretty good job in not only making it easy to program but to understand the underlying concepts that drive any programming language.

http://scratch.mit.edu/

The one thing I don’t understand is why people like to type.

Connecting boxes is a lot more easier than writing things up and basically do the same things the written GUI must die!

mjb5406 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Lacking in morals??? What is wrong with a company developing a product that promotes other facets of its business? The “Google Cloud” has saved many an Android phone user from losing their contacts and calendars; Gmail, if used as an IMAP server, saves up to 8GB of user emails without the user having to worry about backing them up on their computer. Ads are a way of life on ANY platform, whether it’s Android, iPhone, or Windows Phone, not to mention desktop software, when the software itself is free… how should developers get remuneration for free apps? You make this business model sound like communism or something worse; but it’s an established model, not unique to Google, and the bottom line is that people, and companies, like to make money from what they do. Google doesn’t charge for many of its cloud-based services, so it’s entitled to make money elsewhere.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

… and that google stop redirection to their hk site and applied the blocks and filters as required by chinese law.

i am just surprised you arent making as much noise about this now as you were when they were “standing up for the internet” or whatever it was you were cheering them on with.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

i am just surprised you arent making as much noise about this now as you were when they were “standing up for the internet” or whatever it was you were cheering them on with.

Um. I never said they were standing up for internet freedom or cheered them on. When they originally announced moving out of China, I noted that the public reasons didn’t make sense (http://techdirt.com/articles/20100112/2020157718.shtml) and when they reapplied, I pointed out the fact that they pulled the redirect (http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20100629/0019099996.shtml)despite your claim I did not.

Will you admit you were wrong? Of course not…

Freedom says:

New RAD Tool...

I haven’t had a chance to look at the RAD type development tool, but anything that makes the basics easier is always good. My only hope is that you can extend/hook in “real code” into the RAD environment.

To me, this is no different than how C (or current variants) allow you to embed/extend with assembly code, but just at a higher level.

In the end, anything that prevents you from re-creating the wheel and still maintains some flexibility is good.

Anyone that has developed in the newer Microsoft C#, .NET and so on certainly wouldn’t go back to a non-GUI layout tool and so on.

In the end, this is another positive notch in promoting the Android platform versus Apple’s approach of selling closed devices. If Google can execute on their iTunes type service and the new Android Tablet and has even a bit of modest success with Android TV and Android for vehicles, etc., Apple is done. However, Android desperately needs iTunes type functionality and a tablet ASAP to compete going forward.

Freedom

Charlie Kimball (user link) says:

Medical Alert App

I like the concept of the medical alert app, but the reality is that seniors need something really simple to use. The reason that the medical buttons that they wear around their neck work so well is that they are simple, easy to wear, waterproof, and use simple batteries that last for years. Cell phones have to be charged, you have to keep it with you, etc. In this case, old school technology is probably best.

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