Google debuts DIY code tools for Android phones

image captionPrograms can be built by clicking and dragging blocks

Google has released tools that "make it easy for anyone to create programs for Android phones".

Much like Lego, App Inventor lets people drag "blocks" of code around to create applications.

Google said it had been working on the system for a year and were pitched at those with little knowledge of programming.

The tools have been tested over the last 12 months by school children and college students, it said.

The graphical blocks represent the different functions and capabilities of a smartphone.

For instance, one tester of the App Inventor used the GPS locator, timer, and database querying blocks to produce an app that told his friends where he was every 15 minutes.

MIT inside

The programming system was developed with the help of computer scientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) who created a similar coding system known as Open Blocks.

MIT scientist Mitch Resnick used it to create the Scratch programming language that lets children put together programs by clicking and dragging on-screen blocks.

A Gmail account is required for anyone wanting to use the tools and users must apply via a web form. Tutorials are provided to help people get started with the tools.

The tool may well prompt a spike in the number of apps for Android phones which, statistics suggest, are already enjoying a healthy growth.

Figures gathered by Android app site AndroLib predict that the number of applications will pass the 100,000 mark by the end of July 2010, a ten fold increase compared to this time last year. However, it still has less than half the number of apps available for Apple's iPhone.

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