While Google (news, site) has been aggressively marketing services such as Google+, a little-known program called App Inventor that lets users build Android applications without requiring hardcore programming knowledge has stayed under the radar. Now Google is decommissioning App Inventor, and will instead release it as open source software.
App Inventor has never gone past beta, but the service will be interesting to people who are into mobile devices and apps. App Inventor lets users design, build and publish applications for Android without requiring programming knowledge. Part of Google Labs, App Inventor is one of those experimental applications that the hotshot engineers at Google come up with, with the hopes of getting mainstream use and acceptance.
Labs Closing Shop
Sadly, Google is closing down Labs to narrow down their focus on the essentials. While Labs engineers will still retain their respective posts at Google, apps will either be integrated into other Google services or decommissioned altogether. In the case of App Inventor, it will be released as open-source software, so that any interested party can continue making apps from scratch without necessarily having a PhD in rocket science.
Google is still confident that App Inventor might make it past beta once released to the wild. The Labs team sees potential in building educational and instructional apps for Android smartphones and tablets. It's not just Whack-a-Mole, Tic-Tac-Toe and Pong that App Inventor can create. Rather, users can make apps that can help review for tests, study multiplication tables, practice hand-eye coordination, and the like.
Any Alternatives for Building Apps?
App Inventor will live on for three months in its current state, after which Google will make an announcement once it finds a new home for the service. Folks interested in building apps might also want to try alternatives like Conduit. More experienced developers can try Brightcove AppCloud, Metismo or Adobe Flash Builder for creating cross-platform apps for mobile devices.