Google's App Inventor could be revived as an open source platform in order to let students click their way to Android applications without having to muck about learning stuff.
App Inventor was run by Google Labs, the research operation currently being shut down as part of the chocolate factory's streamlining focus. But in a blog post the Program Manager suggests that the success of the platform could lead to it being released into the educational market as an open source product.
When it was first announced, App Inventor was enormously hyped as a breakthrough in application development despite being a fairly typical fourth-generation environment based on MIT's Scratch. The usual limitations apply in terms of complexity verses functionality, but for churning out simple apps it seems a decent tool.
Sadly that view wasn't shared by David Pogue of the New York Times, whose damning review of App Inventor involved him spending an entire day failing to create a single application or even complete the tutorial.
Drag-and-click development environments pop up every now and then, generally just for long enough to claim to be the next big thing, until the world remembers that natively-developed code runs faster and is more flexible.
Schools and colleges are great users of these technologies as an introduction or foundation for IT subjects as they can teach the processes of computer programming without having to teach code.
Releasing App Inventor as open source will require a careful examination of the code to establish whether any bits are owned by someone else, but restricting it to educational use might mitigate against the patents on which the platform likely infringes.
The platform will remain available until at least the end of 2012, but depending on how the process goes it might yet have a long-term future showing kids how to create farting applications for the next generation.®