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The Android Gets Its HyperCard 256

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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  • by Vectormatic ( 1759674 ) on Monday July 12, 2010 @09:06AM (#32873574)

    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.
  • 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.

  • We've tried that (Score:1, Interesting)

    by dimethylxanthine ( 946092 ) <mr...fruit@@@gmail...com> on Monday July 12, 2010 @09:16AM (#32873658) Homepage
    We already tried enabling the general population to create own websites: myspace, geocities, shall I go on? Now, unless this tool is able to preserve other user's eyesight once the app is published... Hopefully Google has studied and learnt something from market history.

    What Google and Apple should definitely try - is community/Karma based app publishing process ;-)
  • 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".

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 12, 2010 @09:20AM (#32873696)

    Anyone else notice that this will probably be shortened to GAIA? Hmm...

  • 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.

  • Re:lawl (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ByOhTek ( 1181381 ) on Monday July 12, 2010 @09:30AM (#32873788) Journal

    Apple only got where it's at by copycating. Pretty much everything else it's done has been available before. Is there anything Apple's done that hasn't fallen into this pattern:

    1) Copycat something someone has done before
    2) Clean up the UI/polish of the device to make it more user friendly
    3) Go on a marketing blitz to try and make it popular and trendy.
    4) Profit

    And then I've seen in several products (but not all)..
    5) Stagnate while competitors catch up with and improve upon/beyond Apple's original concepts.

    And with the transition from MacOS 9 -> MacOS X...
    6) Return to step 2

  • by orasio ( 188021 ) on Monday July 12, 2010 @09:39AM (#32873850) Homepage

    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.

  • by yelvington ( 8169 ) on Monday July 12, 2010 @09:57AM (#32874062) Homepage

    Keep in mind that among the flood of horrid homepages with purple backgrounds, jumping frogs, blinking stars and background MIDI tunes, there also emerged hundreds of thousands of highly valuable niche Web resources created by highly motivated nonprofessionals ... and Google figured out a (community-powered) algorithm for finding the good stuff.

  • 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 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: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 obijuanvaldez ( 924118 ) on Monday July 12, 2010 @12:15PM (#32875422)

    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 want to push any useful but simple tool to being available on any other device?

    I think the error here is in the misleading summary. Just because Apple turned down the pitch from revMobile does not mean they have no intentions of allowing simplified development tools for iOS. My guess would be that if they have any intention of allowing such tools, they would much prefer to actually create them.

  • Re:lawl (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dr Herbert West ( 1357769 ) on Monday July 12, 2010 @01:24PM (#32876182)
    At the risk of sounding sentimental, I think lowering the barrier for entry for app building is a step toward my personal vision of utopia. "solve[ing] the weird little application-specific problems that are important to them or their business, and which are too small to pay for a real developer" is exactly how you end up with the most diverse software environment possible, and get the really inventive, out-of-left-field creatives to participate.

    A higher barrier for entry certainly has not prevented the deluge of "iFart" apps.
  • Re:lawl (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 12, 2010 @02:50PM (#32877234)

    Hmm, all your examples are great because they're not targeting and using a particular object. With a single button mouse, how would you propose to, for example, save an image on a webpage? A lot of novice users would love to send a picture of a cute ____ to their friends. You can't long-press, do any gestures, etc, because the webpage itself might be using those actions on the page itself. The easiest, most logical way would be to have a button outside the scope of the webpage to do so.

    Accidental context menu presses can be easily dismissed by not selecting anything on the context menu. =P

    Different example: A friend of mine with an iPhone and myself with a Nexus One were both using the Facebook mobile site. iProducts, as you know, have one button. Androids have a context menu button. As a joke, we were messaging each other in quick succession, commenting on a photo that she had just posted. This required refreshing the page constantly since the mobile doesn't do so automatically (and shouldn't since it could unintentionally use up a bandwidth).

    Me: Context, Refresh. Scroll down one more comment (since refreshing saves browser position), if available.
    Her: Scroll all the way back up to the top of the page, hit refresh, scroll all the way back down. This eventually got quite annoying since the comments were piling up. Eventually took an extra several seconds to scrolling.

    Comments on how to improve usability here as well? Remember, you can't single tap / long press here because most of the content is a web page that might be expecting that particular input. Additionally, the browser was occupying the full screen save the status bar at the top, so it wasn't exposing any interactive browser UI elements on either browser (just the page).

    It seems that Main click = primary interaction, context click = alternate actions to interact with said object is quite easy for most people to remember. (It even works as default for most video games even on consoles -- Rpad / Leftmouse = primary fire, Lpad / rightmouse = alternate fire) If what they want isn't in the context menu, then start looking for stuff in the menu bar.

  • 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:Hey - Slashdot... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Xtifr ( 1323 ) on Monday July 12, 2010 @07:38PM (#32880948) Homepage

    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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