Google has unveiled an experimental tool that lets non-developers develop applications for Android phones. This Google Labs project is known as App Inventor for Android, and it's based on platforms built at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, including Scratch, the well-known visual web app builder designed for non-programmers as young as eight years old.
The App Inventor project is led by MIT computer scientist Harold Abelson, the founding director of the Free Software Foundation, Public Knowledge, and the Creative Commons who's now on sabbatical at Google. “The goal is to enable people to become creators, not just consumers, in this mobile world,” Abelson tells The New York Times.
App Inventor is a highly visual development environment, letting non-coders piece together applications using predefined objects in much the same way they'd piece together LEGOS. "To use App Inventor, you do not need to be a developer," reads the project website. "App Inventor requires NO programming knowledge. This is because instead of writing code, you visually design the way the app looks and use blocks to specify the app's behavior.
"The App Inventor team has created blocks for just about everything you can do with an Android phone, as well as blocks for doing 'programming-like' stuff — blocks to store information, blocks for repeating actions, and blocks to perform actions under certain conditions. There are even blocks to talk to services like Twitter."
Judging from Google screenshots and the brief demo below, App Inventor works much like Scratch: