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MIT Offers Android App Inventor Beta

Darryl K. Taft covers IBM, big data and a number of other topics for TechWeekEurope and eWeek

MIT has made available a beta of its App Inventor tool that allows for the easy creation of Android apps

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has announced that its MIT App Inventor service is now available to the general public as part of an open beta.

In a 4 March blog post, Hal Abelson, professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT, said the App Inventor is open to use by anybody in the public who wants to build apps for Android phones.

App Developers

App Inventor enables users to develop applications for Android phones using a Web browser and either a connected phone or emulator. The App Inventor service stores the developer’s work and helps them keep track of their projects.

There are three main components to the App Inventor. First is the App Inventor Designer, where the developer selects the components for their app. Next is the App Inventor Blocks Editor, the developer assemble program blocks that specify how the components should behave. The developer assembles programs visually, fitting pieces together like pieces of a puzzle. Then the developer’s app appears on the phone step-by-step as they add pieces to it, so developers can test their work as they build.

When they’re done, they can package their app and produce a stand-alone application to install.

The MIT App Inventor was once known as the Android App Inventor, a do-it-yourself educational programming tool, at Google. However, Google shelved the project last August – among several other Google labs projects – and turned it over to the MIT Media Lab. To better support the technology, MIT launched the MIT Center for Mobile Learning, an extension of the Media Lab to focus on education and learning through mobile computing.

MIT is a proper home for the App Inventor, as professor Abelson helped in its initial development. Then MIT and Google open-sourced the App Inventor code in January.

Open Beta

Now, the project has hit beta as MIT promised it would by the end of the first quarter of 2012.

“For the past two months, we have been conducting a closed test of the system for an increasing number of testers, and we’ve currently scaled to 5,000 testers,” Abelson said in his post. “Today, we’re taking the next step, and opening the MIT App Inventor service to everyone. All you will need is a Google ID for log-in (for example, a Gmail account).”

Abelson added: “App Inventor will now be suitable for any use, including running classes. But please be aware that this is the first time the system will be under load from a large number of users, so there may be bumps and adjustments as the load increases. For now, we suggest that you maintain backup copies of important apps, as we see how things go.”

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