Yesterday my friend's daughter proudly showed off her new game, built entirely using Scratch, a 'codeless' programming language invented by MIT engineers. When I asked her to show me how she built the program, she showed the drag-and-drop interface of Scratch, where you simply create graphic objects on screen and drag code fragments from a library to a panel where they kind of fit together, get copied, and so forth. Not so completely codeless after all, but great for beginners.
The invitation-only Google App Inventor, by all accounts, resembles Scratch in many ways. Creating Apps for Dummies has long been a holy grail for tool designers. Google, in its grandiose fashion, promises to transform the app building landscape with Google App Inventor. The idea is to provide a non-programming, visual app building environment that would open up an ecosystem of do-it-yourself software developers. What a contrast from Apple's complex programming language and tedious app publishing process! However, if app inventor is anything like Scratch, I would contend that the 'app building for all' messaging could be over-hyped. It is programming in a new guise.