Five Android apps we desperately need

Thanks to Google's app building kit, anyone can create apps for mobile phones. The possibilities are endless and ridiculous

You say your secret ambition in life is to build the world's greatest mobile flatulence app? Here's your chance.

Taking a page from Microsoft's Big Book of Boring Product Names, Google is launching Google App Inventor for Android, an app-building kit that's allegedly so simple even a Kardashian could do it.

[ Want to cash in on your IT experiences? InfoWorld is looking for stories of an amazing or amusing IT adventure, lesson learned, or war tale from the trenches. Send your story to offtherecord@infoworld.com. If we publish it, we'll keep you anonymous and send you a $50 American Express gift cheque. ]

Per the New York Times' Steve Lohr:

The Google application tool for Android enables people to drag and drop blocks of code -- shown as graphic images and representing different smartphone capabilities-- and put them together, similar to snapping together Lego blocks. The result is an application on that person's smartphone.

For example, one student made a program to inform a selected list of friends, with a short text message, where he was every 15 minutes. The program was created by putting three graphic code blocks together: one block showed the phone's location sensor, another showed a clock (which he set for 15-minute intervals), and third linked to a simple database on a Web site, listing the selected friends.

(And then his friends immediately created an app that blocked that friends' messages -- at least, that's what I would have done.)

Great news? Well, maybe. Jennifer Allan of the UK's ElectricPig blog fears this tool could push the Android app market into a "heavily diluted, low quality state."

Dear Jennifer: Have you seen the Android app market lately? Once you've hit bottom, it's hard to sink lower (unless, of course, you work for BP). Besides, when you write for a site called ElectricPig, I think you have bigger things to worry about.

In any case, the apps you might create with GAIFA won't exactly be top shelf. Android Power blogger JR Raphael has the skinny:

To be clear, App Inventor isn't about to replace or even threaten the traditional developer model -- far from it. Apps built with Google's new tool will be less robust and advanced than what any professional developer could create; we're talking about two entirely different leagues of programs. In fact, despite what you may have read elsewhere, apps created with App Inventor won't even be published to the Android Market as of now.

Interested in becoming the Bill Gates of mobile app development? Though the app-building app is still in a closed beta, you can spin the wheel by signing up for the waiting list. (Naturally, you'll need a Gmail address, so Google can start tracking wherever you go.)

Once you get approved, please do me a favor and build one of the following apps:

G-Man 2.0. This app would make Google CEO Eric Schmidt look and sound less like a geeky version of Howdy Doody and more like a real human. Put him in a black turtleneck and watch him come alive -- or at least simulate a pulse.

JobsMail. How about an app that automatically generates responses from Steve Jobs to random reader emails? Oh wait, somebody already did that.

The Perspirator: Who sweats more, Steve "The Mad" Ballmer or Mark "Boy in the Hoodie" Zuckerberg? We need an app that can calculate changes in relative humidity when one of them enters the room and starts schvitzing.

Stink Different. This app can give you an precise measurement, in bars, of just how much Apple PR is lying at any given moment about reception problems with the iPhone 4. The noise-to-signal strength almost never dips below 4. Talk about great coverage.

Appholes. This app measures how many times you use the word "app" in a single blog post and warns you if you're exceeding human tolerance. So far I'm up to 18 "apps" (oops, make that 19), which translates into a threat level of burnt umber.

Got more ideas for silly Android apps (20)? E-mail me: cringe@infoworld.com.

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Robert X. Cringely

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