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The Android Gets Its HyperCard 256

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the developers^3 dept.
theodp writes "Steve Jobs & Co. put the kibosh on easier cellphone development, but Google is giving it a shot. The NY Times reports that Google is bringing Android software development to the masses, offering a software tool starting Monday that's intended to make it easy for people to write applications for its Android phones. The free software, called Google App Inventor for Android, has been under development for a year. 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 CS majors. The thinking behind the initiative, Google said, is that as cellphones increasingly become the computers that people rely on most, users should be able to make applications themselves. It's something Apple should be taking very seriously, advises TechCrunch."
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The Android Gets Its HyperCard

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  • Just in time... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tpstigers (1075021) on Monday July 12, 2010 @09:06AM (#32873572)
    ... to contradict the previous story. Power to the people!
    • by jo42 (227475)

      Can't wait for all the CrAppTastic crApps!

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      Power to the people!

      Isn't that what the executioner says in Florida, where they still use the electric chair?

  • If this means the android market is gonna be filled up with apps made by toddlers and high-school girls.

    Seriously though, props to google for making android development even more accesible, i just hope this doesnt result in milions upon milions of fart-apps and such, their largely unmoderated app-store is one of the reasons i want an android phone instead of an iphone, but this might become a tad painfull is left unchecked

    • by rumith (983060) on Monday July 12, 2010 @09:13AM (#32873624)
      I don't think I understand you correctly: nobody forces you to install those millions of fart-apps! If they find their audience among the teens, why not? Do you really notice that the whole web is literally overwhelmed by pages of similar (i.e. non-existent) quality?
      The problem is not that Android Market will be flooded by low-quality apps. The problem is that Android Market has pretty rudimentary app search and filtering capabilities to reduce signal to noise ratio. Sorry for the irony, but Google must build a decent search engine for Android apps.
      • by Vectormatic (1759674) on Monday July 12, 2010 @09:26AM (#32873754)

        i'll just reply to you, since many others have already replied to me saying search etc..

        I dont care if people want fart apps, or even milions of them, but if, when browsing an app-store, i end up wading through thousands of pieces of junk to find one or two actually good apps, that is annoying. I find this already happens a lot on the apple app-store, the mechanisms for searching etc. simply arent 'fast' enough for my taste, i spend too much time scrolling or whatever.

        truth be told, i am very curious about android and the android market, i have no doubt that as soon as my contract is up for renewal i'll get a nice android phone

        • by hedwards (940851) on Monday July 12, 2010 @09:31AM (#32873806)
          It's not that different from the Appstore on the iPhone, I'm sure most of those apps are junk as well. People tend to browse the most recent and popular lists primarily to find things. As that'll find most of the good ones, also if one has a specific need in mind, Google helps with that as well.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by orasio (188021)

          Ok. You want an easy way to find good quality apps.
          Apple does that by restricting production. It might work.
          Google should do that by smart ranking, even if they are not doing it well now, more apps doesn't mean it's going to be worse. In fact, Google is good at finding the good stuff in a sea of crap. A larger volume of data might be of help.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by delinear (991444)

          It's much easier to find apps using one of the app review websites than it is to use either Google's market or Apple's app store. Android makes this nice and simple with Google Goggles integration, so you find the app you want, snap a shot of its barcode with the phone camera and it will do the donkey work of finding the app. Alternatively you can use something like App Brain, where (I believe this is how it works, not used it myself) you have a login and you select the apps on your pc and your phone will j

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          if, when browsing an app-store, i end up wading through thousands of pieces of junk to find one or two actually good apps, that is annoying.

          This is already the case on Android (no idea about AppStore, but I've heard that it's not really very different despite the "walled garden"). When browsing practically any store category, about 50% is porn, 30% are themes, wallpapers and ringtones, 15% are crappy apps doing something that has been done thousand times before (and doing it badly), and 5% is something that might actually be useful - and I'm probably being overly optimistic here.

          As it is, the only practical way to find a useful app in the store

      • by Idbar (1034346)
        What they probably need is a better voting system that properly ranks applications. If people is looking for the "best farting-sounds application" that what should be returned based on people's experiences and application ranking.
        It's not like Google doesn't know how to do search and ranking.
        • by delinear (991444)
          Ranking at the moment seems to be skewed anyway, on the one hand by all the people spamming their websites (who just automatically give 5 stars to every single app, presumably because if the app ranks well there's more chance you'll see their spam in the comments) and on the other hand people who fail to read the disclaimers such as "this app doesn't work on handset X for hardware reasons Y and Z" but they still give it one star because they have handset X (like buying a Windows PC and complaining it won't
      • by Lythrdskynrd (1823332) on Monday July 12, 2010 @11:10AM (#32874776)

        What's more is that this application will bring programming "back" the the masses.

        I'm a (former) high school teacher myself, and I'm getting near jitters thinking about how fired up my kids would get if they could program their own mobile phone app with the same ease of making a Powerpoint Presentation (younger students *LOVE* making powerpoint, quite often "reward time" would be "if you're all good, I'll let you make a powerpoint about whatever you want")

        Think about how amazing it would be to teach a whole year class about creating an App for your phone. "Think of a problem that needs solving" - what buttons do you need? what do the buttons have to do? now draw the screens on paper, now draw the buttons in the interface... now here's how we add "actions" to the buttons.

        Want to do something that's more complex? Maybe we need to look "behind the design, at the code"

        How many people here grew up on the Apple ][ or on BASIC programs for the C64?

        This is fucking revolutionary! What a great time to be alive!

        I'm so excited I think I just peed a little :)

    • If this means the android market is gonna be filled up with apps made by toddlers and high-school girls.

      The market is already filled up with piece of crap apps [androidzoom.com]. It's just that you never see them until they become popular on the marketplace. If the majority is only using the top 1% of applications on both Android Market and Apple App Store, does it matter that at the very bottom there are spam apps made by high-school girls or not?

      i just hope this doesnt result in milions upon milions of fart-apps and such, their largely unmoderated app-store is one of the reasons i want an android phone instead of an iphone, but this might become a tad painfull is left unchecked

      If some people want the fart apps, let them have their fart apps. Just don't spend money on fart apps and you'll be okay. Android Market has reviews and popularity ... how in the

      • piece of crap apps [androidzoom.com]

        Holy crap, that app made me smile and cry at the same time...

        Android Market has reviews and popularity ... how in the hell is that "unmoderated"?

        From what i understand, apple does remove some total crapware once in a while from the app-store, including all those "bikini girl pictures FREE" apps which just clog up the pipes for no added value what so ever, i thought the android marketplace is completely open to any and all apps. As much as i hate apple for their approval policies, some level of QA is probably a plus (and apple is taking it way to far)

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          As much as i hate apple for their approval policies, some level of QA is probably a plus (and apple is taking it way to far)

          The approval process is not so much about QA as it is about making sure your app doesn't compete with Apple's. Yes, they do check to make sure you're not using any undocumented APIs and that the app doesn't blatantly crash, but there is some real trash out there. They'll gladly let anything through, no matter how useless, including those that make a mockery of their own HIG.

        • by delinear (991444)
          I wouldn't mind so much if Google gave me some tools and expected me to do a little work to get the apps I want. What I'd like to see are advanced search filters (date, downloads, rating, file size, maybe the stats for percentage of people who uninstalled the app - I'm sure they have those available) with the ability to save searchs and, perhaps just as importantly, the ability to block certain users or keyword matches (it seems 90% of the spam crap in the market place originate from a relatively small set
    • by Xest (935314)

      There was a story the other day stating that Google intend to allow you to sign in to a desktop (presumably web) based version of the marketplace to remotely install apps on - kind of like you can use iTunes to install apps on your iPhone I guess.

      I wouldn't be suprised if Google revamps the marketplace on the phone somewhat at the same time to be honest. It does seem to work quite well as high rated stuff tends to remain at the top and lower rated sinks to the bottom, but I agree, in the long run there will

    • by delinear (991444)
      Well that's about the state of the Android market right now, but hopefully it will mean people with great ideas but limited technical knowledge will be able to contribute. I've pretty much accepted that if I want to find decent apps, the best bet is not to go via the market place but to use app review sites (and at least they mostly make this very painless by allowing me to snap a photo of the barcode and instantly locate the app).
    • But does it have a native 'card layout' ?
    • Moderate yourself (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Tisha_AH (600987) <Tisha.Hayes@gmail.com> on Monday July 12, 2010 @09:23AM (#32873726) Journal

      It is like Slashdot. If you want to look at everything at -1 you can. Naturally you will see a bunch of crap.

      For android applications you can always sort things by how popular they are and find the creme of the crop.

      Who knows, you may be surprised by what application may be developed by a high school girl. To ignore the potential creativity of a vast swath of society is foolish. Maybe the killer app is one that targets high school girls.

      • by Tom (822) on Monday July 12, 2010 @09:39AM (#32873856) Homepage Journal

        Who knows, you may be surprised by what application may be developed by a high school girl.

        My guess is: The same as operas written by computer geeks.

        No, I don't mean the browser.

        The basis of society as we know it is division of labour. Let people do what they are good at, and give the parts they aren't to someone else. We don't need 5 million nonsensical crap applications on the marketplace. What we need is a way to request applications. If 1000 people want a fart app and are willing to pay $0.99 for it, I'm sure someone will write one.

        Right now, there's no way for the consumer to tell the market what you are looking for. Back when we came up with all this Internet thing, wasn't the fact that it makes bi-directional communication possible one of its best features? Instead of having only the big corporations being able to talk to the costumers via advertisement and press releases, the customer could talk back and the companies would listen?

        Whatever happened to that? Wouldn't the app market with its thousands of small developers a fantastic place for this old dream? Tell them what you need, or what the available apps are lacking, and the chances that someone will set out to satisfy that need are better than ever before.

        That would be a true innovation that drives the app store or marketplace or whatever you want to call it forward. Apple is too much into the uni-directional conversation for that to happen, Google could make it happen. Don't tell me that with all the very smart people they employ, nobody has dug up this idea from the 90s.

        • by Sockatume (732728)

          I would argue that a developer is more likely to "get" your App needs from a bodged prototype created on this platform, than the usual arm-waving and vague specifications.

          Furthermore, while it's wonderful to imagine the millions of hobby programmers jumping at the chance to develop my concept for a program that automatically locates waffle houses by GPS and texts my friends if I enter them, I think it's a fantasy. The mismatch between my enthusiasm for the project and the sheer tedium that would lie in codi

          • by Tom (822)

            The mismatch between my enthusiasm for the project and the sheer tedium that would lie in coding it could only be realigned with hard cash I don't have.

            No, but it may be worth $0.99 to you. And to a hundred other people. Or a thousand. If there are enough people that want it done, it will get done. Someone's gonna say "that's an easy $999, let's go coding".

        • by homer_s (799572)
          Right now, there's no way for the consumer to tell the market what you are looking for...Instead of having only the big corporations being able to talk to the costumers via advertisement and press releases, the customer could talk back and the companies would listen? Whatever happened to that?

          It's called the market - the way the customers "talk back" to the producers is by choosing which products to buy (or not to buy); the feedback is pretty quick and much better than any other process that I can thing
          • by Tom (822)

            It is a one-bit feedback channel. How many companies out there are wondering why their product fails (and sometimes, they have no idea why their other product is a success) ?

            More importantly, how many people are paid for what is essentially guessing what the customer wants?

            You can not be serious when you say that a one-bit channel is the best you can think of.

        • by rumith (983060) on Monday July 12, 2010 @10:58AM (#32874634)
          You can't have a lot of kids knowing how to program tomorrow if you don't spark their interest with such a tool today. And IMO this will be great not only for attracting and educating future software engineers, but also to tap into the pool of active talented kids who are not going to be software engineers, ever. The kids who will be nuclear physicists, radio geeks, astronomy fans, journalists will also acquire basic programming abilities without distracting from their main specialty to learn a programming language or two, dive into a complex SDK and constantly work to keep these skills up to date.
          In short, I think that App Inventor is pretty awesome.
        • Re:Moderate yourself (Score:4, Interesting)

          by delinear (991444) on Monday July 12, 2010 @11:08AM (#32874736)
          You might think that's the best way to determine what apps should be created, but in practice what people say they want is hardly ever exactly what they do want. If you follow that route you quickly end up with "The Homer" - the everyman car that looks like a monstrosity and costs a fortune because it tries to be everything to everyone. If this tool makes it easy for regular people to prototype ideas quickly and test them in the wild, that's probably not a bad thing. Even if 99% of it is garbage. The 1% can always be polished by developers later if it takes off.
        • by anorlunda (311253) on Monday July 12, 2010 @11:51AM (#32875174) Homepage

          The Hypercard analogy is a good one.

          I remember when writing HTML 1.0 was considered programming. Applying your logic retroactively, only professional programmers could be expected to create web pages worth looking at.

  • Lingo anyone? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by thnmnt (62145) * on Monday July 12, 2010 @09:09AM (#32873598)

    This reminds me of the early 1990s trend of "programming for everyone", particularly Macromedia's Lingo in Director. Languages and environments that start this way quickly realize that the end products would be ever so slightly more appealing if they were more flexible. And flexibility is the end of simplicity. The 1.0 of this language is going to be fine for a few intrepid schoolgirls, but soon they're going to have to add basic programming concepts and structures which will leave most people scratching their heads. Haven't we already seen this dramatic arc with Director and Flash?

    • by migla (1099771)

      HS: "Lingo, dead!"
      L: "Lingo *is* dead."

    • The thing about Flash though is there are some people who have stuck with it and made some really cool tools/products/games with it (everything from C64 [codeazur.com.br] emulators to word processors [adobe.com] not to mention tons of games - some of which are quite complex) using a serious dev toolkit like Flash Builder.

      Hopefully this kind of tool inspires someone to dig deeper and pick something up something a bit deeper like the Android SDK

  • Google (Score:4, Insightful)

    by helix2301 (1105613) on Monday July 12, 2010 @09:10AM (#32873608) Homepage
    This is what is great about Google they offer different services to compete with Apple. Plus the whole point of creating your own apps made easy is just really cool and a great touch by Google. I think if this catches on this could be a big selling point for Google.
    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by Tom (822)

      errr... because?

      Do you really think that one, even just one application of quality or merit will be created with this? There will be a billion "look ma, I click this button and something happens" apps. Aside from that?

      We've been there. Visual programming had its place, back when it was done by nerds. There were games, serious applications, the whole nine yards. Turns it it's all shit. Beyond trivialities, you can't model anything worth writing a program for with boxes. Even Minesweeper is too complicated fo

      • Re:Google (Score:5, Interesting)

        by gad_zuki! (70830) on Monday July 12, 2010 @10:02AM (#32874120)

        >There will be a billion "look ma, I click this button and something happens" apps. Aside from that?

        That's what they said about html because of its simplicity, but it turns out that most people's needs aren't met by commecial software and need something that's just not worth paying someone to develop.

        There's always going to be a need for simple apps. I don't see this than being any different than VBA for apps or building front-ends in Access. Non-coders can learn these things, build prototypes or even little production apps, and be better off for it. I think it would be foolish to let Apple or WinMo take the lead in simple app development because it has the potential to be a big deal. I'm pleased to see that not only is Google not emulating Apple's lock down/walled garden approach, they are also promoting simplified development to end users!

        • by Tom (822)

          HTML is not a general-purpose programming language. It is a markup language. Not a big surprise that you have visual tools for markup, is it?

          Access is actually a great example. All of the "production" apps I have seen that were made with Access are horribly shoddy buckets of crap that if you'd written them for a client you'd be sued into bancruptcy for. When it's made in-house, for some reason it becomes acceptable, maybe because some twit in management did it himself...

          they are also promoting simplified development to end users!

          Some things should not be "simplified

      • Re:Google (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Rogerborg (306625) on Monday July 12, 2010 @11:01AM (#32874658) Homepage

        There will be a billion "look ma, I click this button and something happens" apps.

        Then that's 1 billion proudly loyal Android users busily evangelising Android to their mothers.

        Does that make the point clear enough for you?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 12, 2010 @09:11AM (#32873610)

    Can we just have a "Google" section already? This might as well be filed under Microsoft, with references being made to "Developers, Developers, Developers!"

    • by arcite (661011)
      Everything begins with an apple.
      • Everything begins with an apple.

        Even sin. According to the Bible, anyway.

      • by Idbar (1034346)
        Might as well have an "Alexander Graham Bell" and a "Thomas Alba Edison" sections then.

        There's a hardware section and a mobile section already, why not removing the only trademark from the list, and add software and Network (Internet) sections.

        For those of you complaining about "Linux" may change it for POSIX and everyone's happy.
  • Just like Scratch (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bsDaemon (87307) on Monday July 12, 2010 @09:16AM (#32873656)

    I took a look at the demostration videos and whatnot, and the user interface seems to be a cross between XCode's interface builder and MIT's Scratch. The code is written by dragging "puzzle pieces" into place, just like in Scratch. However, I assume this uses Java rather than Squeak? Scratch is kind of a lot different than HyperCard, but, you know... whatever. If only my BlackBerry Storm hadn't turned me off smartphones forever, I might actually be inclined to give this a shot.

    • by GweeDo (127172)

      So you let one crappy phone turn you off of all phones? Whatever you do...don't go watch The Last Airbender. It will make you irrationally think all movies are bad!

      • by bsDaemon (87307)

        I don't have enough of a reasonable need for smartphones anyway, even if they are good. I already saw Airbender, and honestly it was perhaps the least shitty movie Shamalamadingdong has made so far, even though it was a rather poor adaptation of the cartoon.

    • Re:Just like Scratch (Score:5, Informative)

      by yelvington (8169) on Monday July 12, 2010 @09:54AM (#32874016) Homepage

      According to the documentation, [googlelabs.com] App Inventor is based on Open Blocks, which is in turn modeled after Scratch, and uses Kawa [gnu.org] (a Scheme implementation) to produce Java.

      As for the Blackberry Storm ... it's best not to speak of these things.

  • scripting (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gTsiros (205624) on Monday July 12, 2010 @09:20AM (#32873694)

    just give us proper scripting with proper exposure of the internals to the scripting language

    like hp calculators have RPL.

    i see stuff on the android market that would take 3 lines of scripting to accomplish... yet they are presented as "apps".

  • Cross Platform (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Monday July 12, 2010 @09:24AM (#32873736)

    A simple App maker like hypercard was? It is supported on Windows, OS X, and Ubuntu. It also works with both Java 1.5 and 1.6. Way to go Google! You may have finally hit upon a great way to outcompete Apple in the mobile space. I just hope you're working on improving the Android Market in a big hurry.

  • What's amazing... (Score:5, Informative)

    by amiran (923374) on Monday July 12, 2010 @10:27AM (#32874334)

    ... is the fact, that the guy behind this project is Harold Abelson, author of Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs! He described LISP "picture language" in the book as a useful learning concept. He also "...directed the first implementation of LOGO for the Apple II" which seems interesting in this case.

  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Monday July 12, 2010 @10:42AM (#32874492)

    I think Apple's thinking is that for simpler development, you can use HTML5. They actually have an already existing tool separate from XCode, that lets you pretty easily design a nice UI in HTML5 - it's called Dashcode.

    It does require you install the developer tools (which are free).

    That said I applaud Google for this effort, perhaps it could become a new standard for introductory programming classes in gradeschool/highschool.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by obijuanvaldez (924118)

      I think Apple's thinking is that for simpler development, you can use HTML5.

      Why would they think that? I cannot imagine that Apple would want to turn away the $99 SDK fee, the sale of a Macintosh computer and any additional revenues generated by the sale and/or use of a simple application for any reason. But, just as importantly, I cannot imagine a single advantage to them foregoing having that application exclusive to the App Store and available to any device with an HTML5-compliant browser. Simplified development does not imply useless output applications, so why would they w

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        I think Apple's thinking is that for simpler development, you can use HTML5.

        Why would they think that? I cannot imagine that Apple would want to turn away the $99 SDK fee, the sale of a Macintosh computer and any additional revenues generated by the sale and/or use of a simple application for any reason.

        Developer licensing and sales of Macs to developers that don't have them don't even show up in Apple's bottom line in any meaningful way. Sales of iPhones, however, are a huge part of their profit. Apple is about making money, but they're not idiots that want to nickel and dime people in ways that will lose them larger amounts of money in the long run.

        But, just as importantly, I cannot imagine a single advantage to them foregoing having that application exclusive to the App Store and available to any device with an HTML5-compliant browser. Simplified development does not imply useless output applications, so why would they want to push any useful but simple tool to being available on any other device?

        Apple makes a lot of money selling Macs as well as phones. By promoting HTML5 (which you can compile into an app in the iPhone store, by the way) they push We

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by painandgreed (692585)

        Why would they think that? I cannot imagine that Apple would want to turn away the $99 SDK fee, the sale of a Macintosh computer and any additional revenues generated by the sale and/or use of a simple application for any reason.

        Here's two reasons. One, your $99 isn't worth having to deal with even more really bad apps by anybody. They want a bit higher bar to submit apps just to make sure it is worth their while to do so. Two, for the same reason they tried to convince everybody there was no need for an SD

  • by peter303 (12292) on Monday July 12, 2010 @11:01AM (#32874656)
    Ironic, it was the internet browser which killed the original HyperCard. The browser was more general and portable than HyperCard. Required browser updates include:
    (1) Use all the new GUI features on smartphones like location info, touch screens, etc.
    (2) Make better use of small screen real estate. The default should drop window borders and menu borders, etc.

    Its a step backwards from the generality of a browser to have to write a custom App for everything.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by walter_f (889353)

      By the way, historic[ally], it was Steve Jobs who killed the original HyperCard.
      That happened in February 1998, if my memory doesn't mislead me, with a release-grade HC 3.0 just round the corner.

      And sorry, I regard a browser as a piece of software that may serve many purposes, but certainly not all, not even close.

  • Well, that's kinda sad.

    Apple banned them from making a revMobile that could create apps for iPhone. Now Google are displacing them.

    So much for anyone who pre-ordered revMobile.

  • by Kenja (541830) on Monday July 12, 2010 @01:02PM (#32875916)
    This is not for making apps to distribute in the marketplace, this is about quickly making apps for YOU to use. Not that Android development is hard for people who understand even basic coding, but this will let more people making things to run on their phones. The demo video is a woman making an app with a picture of a cat that meows when you touch it. This is for HER to use, not to be distributed to the masses.
  • Hey - Slashdot... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by earlymon (1116185) on Monday July 12, 2010 @04:05PM (#32878158) Homepage Journal

    I thought this was a fabulous submission - news for nerds, with links to balancing links to opposing points of view and a counterpoint example of a competitor's approach.

    That said - isn't it time that Android got its own sub-section?

    This isn't Apple news, it's Android news, and it seems to me that just putting this in the Apple area has done little to help signal to noise.

    Android isn't going anywhere and it's market share is on a steady incline.

    Sure, it's only a mobile OS - but it also represents a significant penetration of a desktop based on a Linux-based operating system for mobile users.

    How is that not a good rationale for a new category for news for nerds, stuff that matters?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Xtifr (1323)

      For some extra irony: at the moment I'm typing this, the latest story on the front page is about the iPhone, and it's in the Mobile section, not the Apple section!

      So apparently a story about Android is about Apple, but a story about iPhone isn't. *sigh*

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