Making computers easy to use has had profound implications. The personal computer revolution fundamentally changed the way many people work, and gave rise to a whole new industry. Making the internet easy to use (creating the world wide web) fundamentally changed the way many organizations conduct business. Making the world wide web easy to use (Web 2.0, social media, etc.) has once again fundamentally changed the way many people communicate, connect, and work.
So, what if software development lands in the hands of everyman, in an easy to use fashion? What might the implications be? Consider this recent New York Times article that explores a new offering by Google, The App Inventor, which is designed to do just that on a mobile platform. Notice how Google uses words like “inventor” and “creator” – far less intimidating than “software developer,” and probably more appealing to the target audience (sixth graders, high school girls, nursing students, and non-science undergraduates are cited as beta testers).
The system works by allowing users to drag and drop graphical elements to build something useful. No programming at all. There is still a long way to go before platforms like these become truly easy for everyone to use, but it’s a good step in the right direction, and a particularly interesting one to watch because it’s designed specifically for a mobile platform.
Photo credit: practicalowl