Last year, Google decided to shutter Google Labs, a place where a number of incredibly wonderful experimental projects lived. Among the projects that got the ax was one of my favorites: Google's Android App Inventor.
Sure, The New York Times' David Pogue gave it one of his most scathing reviews ever. But as this was something designed in part by Hal Abelson, one of the people behind Scratch -- no doubt, the single best learn-to-program projects available to this day. And as such it was terribly disappointing to see the Android App Inventor be shelved. Much like Scratch, App Inventor presupposes zero programming knowledge, and yet while teaching computational thinking, it also allows users to build something they find both useful and important -- in the case of Scratch, it's animations and games. In the case of App Inventor, it's mobile apps.
We haven't heard much publicly about the project since then (although those who are part of the App Inventor Google Group know that the questions "When? WHEN!?" have been fairly rampant)
Well, "when" is "now" when it comes to the release of the Android App Inventor source code. Google and MIT have just announced its release, and the source code is now available here.
In a blog post on the new MIT site, Abelson writes
Google and MIT are pleased to announce the initial free and open-source release from Google of the App Inventor source code at http://code.google.com/p/app-inventor-releases/.
There's little supporting documentation yet, and we’re not accepting contributions to the code now. That will happen later, after the MIT Center of Mobile Learning opens their App Inventor server to the public. We hope to nurture a robust and active open-source project eventually, but for now we don't want to distract the MIT developers from their efforts to complete and deploy the large-scale public server. In the meantime, we’ll update the code periodically to match what’s running at the latest MIT experimental system. We've also created a Google Group here for people working with the code to relate their experiences with the code, ask questions, help each other, etc.
People who create modifications from this code base are free to use the term “App Inventor” and the puzzle-piece Android logo in their work. MIT will be releasing its own versions under the name “MIT App Inventor”, which is reserved for the systems actually coming from MIT.
Enjoy the code, and Happy Inventing!