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An end-user app development tool? Pfui!
By Dave Winer on Monday, July 12, 2010 at 9:31 AM.

This morning there's news of an end-user app development tool from Google. permalink

I'm from Missouri when it comes to these things.  permalink

This idea of a once-and-for-all development tool is like the Divining Rod of the Olde Days. Perpetual Motion. The goose that laid the golden egg. The fountain of youth. Shangri-la. Bigfoot. The Loch Ness Monster. Cold fusion. The Singularity! permalink

In this week's Rebooting the News, Jay asked me to come up with an example of a report making the claim that users would be be able to create software.  permalink

The second paragraph in the Fortune article will do. "Businesses, large and small can now easily create apps for their employees' Android devices without hiring costly developers." permalink

Jeff Jarvis: "I think Google's App Inventor tool that enables anyone to program an Android app could be profound." permalink

Jeff clearly heard what I heard. permalink

Finally consider the opening paragraph of Google's announcement. "App Inventor is a new tool in Google Labs that makes it easy for anyone -- programmers and non-programmers, professionals and students -- to create mobile applications for Android-powered devices."  permalink

Non-programmers can create mobile apps, says Google.  permalink

In 1981 or so, I was visiting BYTE Magazine in Peterboro, New Hampshire. They told me about an ad running in the next issue for a product called The Last One, which purported to be a development tool so easy an end-user could create their own applications. Goodbye programmers, they said. This is the last program you'll ever buy (hence the name). permalink

When we finally saw it, it was a cheesy flat-file database with a fairly complex reporting program. Some marketing guy, a snake-oil salesman, had conjured a scam to get money from unsuspecting users, who (probably justifiably) were fed up with waiting for programmers to give them what they wanted. permalink

A picture named goose.gifSince then there have been many The Last Ones and none of them live up to their billing. The ones that are any good just turn the users into programmers. Which is fine, but let's not mistake that for nirvana. There are lots of ways to do that. Maybe some better than others. The problem is the sales pitch, not the software. permalink

Hypercard was sold this way, as was COBOL. You'd tell the system, in English, what you wanted and it would make it for you. Only trouble is the programming languages only looked superficially like English, to someone who didn't know anything about programming. Once you got into it, it was programming. permalink

It's like saying you can ski without the long drive to the mountain, or riding a chair lift (lift lines), enduring the cold, dealing with shit snow. Nice idea, but it doesn't work that way. You have to sweat for the victories. Most of skiing is work. A relatively small amount of it is the pleasure that makes the work worthwhile (for some). permalink

So when Google promises this, I think -- I bet it's an RSS aggregator of some kind. Probably like a bunch of others, but with more marketing ooomph. Let's give it a try and see what it is.  permalink

Update: Kevin Tofel says it's more like Visual Basic. I rest my case. :-) permalink

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