Android Drive

I love it when people don’t get it — it means the market is ready to shift.

This week the geeks at Google released a gizmo that lets average people create Android apps via a brain-dead-simple user interface.  The reaction from the technical community involved hysterical laughter, deriding the tool and the alleged limitation of the applications it could craft.  Uniformly they snickered noting that while Apple’s App Store is loaded with professionally honed software downloads, Google was encouraging point-and-meow apps.  They used the news to lambaste Google’s Nexus One handset, which had a short life before cellular carriers started selling their own Android handies.

The technical community doesn’t get it, which means the market is about to shift.

Nexus One and the Android App Inventor served similar purposes, namely market seeding.  Android was a relatively new entrant into the handset OS market, and going up against Apple, Microsoft, RIMM, Symbian and other established players.  Adopting Android presented a risk to everyone — handset makers, software developers, carriers and consumers.  In order to reduce risk and encourage experimental adoption, Google needed to get a handset into people’s hands.  Thus they conscripted HTC to build One that showcased Android (and HTC was smart to exploit the opportunity to showcase their design and manufacturing capabilities).  This assured that developers, early adopters, carriers, analysts, reporters and even competitors saw what Android could do and in turn created both desire and FUD in the market.

Google used Nexus to move Android past a market hurdle.

Apple’s most significant remaining advantage in the market is its app store (face it, Android, Symbian^3, WebOS and maybe even Windows 7 mobile-whatever-they-are-calling-it-this-week have similar/identical/good-enough capabilities at the OS level).  Apple app richness is a market hurdle.  To get past that hurdle requires people believing that Android is a good environment for which to build apps (and given how well the durn things are selling in the East, Asian Android apps is a redundant phrase).  Android App Inventor is a simple tool for creating apps, and is the Nexus One of applications — it exists to reduce risk of discovery, and as a side effect, maybe cause a user to instigate the next great idea for an mobile application.

The reason misreading the intent of an event is an indicator of a market shift is that those slinging misguided rhetorical missiles are those of inert thinking.  When conventional viewpoints prevail, unconventional thinking succeeds.  Google recognizes the app market hurdle while various tech industry pundits don’t.  “The goal is to enable people to become creators, not just consumers, in this mobile world,” was how the Android App Inventor project leader phrased it.  “I think Google’s App Inventor tool that enables anyone to program an Android app could be profound,” opined one wag.

The unconventional thinking here is the same that drove social networks.  People, the unruly bunch that they are, have more net ideas than all the professional developers combined and raised several orders of magnitude, then multiplied by the number of interns politicians sleep with (that last item being a truly staggering sum).  Any of these end users may never perfect an app, but they will invent more apps that Steve Jobs has in his digital wet dreams.  Android App Inventor unleashes imaginations.

The best parallel I can recall was Borland.  In the early days of MS-DOS, a compiler cost a couple of thousand 1980’s dollars.  Borland put Turbo Pascal onto the market for $49 and every two-bit hack started writing applications.  Borland and shareware marketplaces, not Microsoft, made MS-DOS successful.  Rough hacks created by hobbyists were hijacked and converted into mainstream applications.  Android App Inventor follows the same path, taking it one step further by putting programmer power into the hands of every man, woman, child and highly functioning dog (though congressmen are still not yet advanced enough).

Android App Inventor is a game changer.  The pundits just don’t understand the game.


Comments

Android Drive — 1 Comment

  1. Well said. I’m still amazed at how few people understand what Google actually does, and are therefore constantly misreading the tea leaves. The way I see it, and history seems to back my view, Google’s goal is to commoditize various ways to deliver it’s products (which first and foremost is advertising). It’s similar to the way TV networks don’t care what kind of TV you have because TVs are a commodity.

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