Make your own Angry Birds
Homebrew apps have arrived
LAST year Eddie the pig took Chile by storm. The iPhone game "ePig Dash", featuring Eddie, dislodged "Angry Birds" to become the number-one paid game on the Chilean App Store. By itself, the story of a cute, if flatulent, pig pushing a bunch of irate birds off the top spot is nothing unusual. What is odd is that the creator of "ePig Dash", a conjuror and economics teacher, knew little or nothing about programming. Instead he used GameSalad, a do-it-yourself tool for app-makers.
去年，小猪爱迪（Eddie the pig）在智利风靡。击败"愤怒的小鸟"后，以爱迪（Eddie）为主角的iphone游戏"ePig Dash"成为智利苹果应用榜上排名第一的付费游戏。就游戏本身而言，它没什么不寻常：以可爱角色为主角，小猪胀气后，将把一群愤怒的小鸟推下顶座。奇怪的是"ePig Dash"的作者是一名魔术师兼经济学教师，他对编程可谓知之甚少，甚至一无所知。但是他使用了一款可以让程序作者自己动手做应用的工具GameSalad。
DIY is hot. In May Research in Motion, the maker of the BlackBerry, unveiled a kit that allows people with no programming skills to create a working app within minutes. Apple, too, has applied for a patent indicating it is also building a DIY tool for iOS, its mobile operating system. And in March the Massachusetts Institute of Technology released a beta version of App Inventor, which allows even simpletons to make apps for Android phones.
"自己动手做"（DIY）很流行。五月份，黑莓的制造商RIM（Research in Motion）公司就发布了一套允许全无编程经验的人在数分钟内创造出能正常运行的应用的工具。苹果公司申请的一项版权同样表明它在建造一款自家的iOS平台上用的DIY工具。在三月，麻省理工学院也发布了一套测试版的应用构建器。它能以傻瓜式的方式构建安卓手机应用。
Several start-ups already offer DIY app services. Conduit, a firm which was valued at $1.3 billion after J.P. Morgan acquired a 7% stake for $100m earlier this year, allows people to build mobile apps themselves with a simple graphical interface. AppMakr, a similar service, has helped to create some 10,000 apps. Users include individuals, small businesses and the Harvard Business Review. AppMakr also offers its users help in bringing apps up to standard before submitting them to Apple's picky App Store. Other services publish to Android and Windows, or bypass Apple altogether by creating web apps.
Custom-made apps can cost $10,000 or more. By contrast, DIY apps are free to create, with a subscription for continued support. Prices vary, typically from about $30 to $80 a month. Magmito, an app-building service that targets small and medium businesses, has a plan that costs as little as $50 a year. AppMakr offers a free, ad-supported service.
Small businesses and tech-savvy amateurs have been the most enthusiastic early creators of DIY apps. But they can also be a profitable business. GameSalad allows users to make 2D games for smartphones, which some choose to sell. According to Steve Felter, GameSalad's boss, some developers even make a living designing apps on its platform.
The democratisation of technology is not without drawbacks. Apple's App Store already has some 550,000 apps. Google offers 450,000 for download on its Android operating system. The coming deluge of apps made by amateurs will see those numbers swell.
Not all will shine. "There's a lot of garbage on YouTube. But once in a while you find a gem and everybody passes it around," says Ted Iannuzzi of Magmito. Professional app-makers may not be shaking in their boots just yet. But the clever ones, like AppMakr, are moving from creating stuff for mobile phones to creating the stuff that creates the stuff for mobile phones. App-creating software could be the machine tools of the mobile world.
不可能所有的都是精品。Magmito 的Ted Iannuzzi 说："YouTube里有大量的垃圾作品，但是精品从被发现到被人们广泛传播也是一瞬间的事儿。"专业的应用作者还不会感到有压力。可是像AppMakr这样明智的企业正从为智能手机创造应用转向为智能手机创造制造应用的应用。制造应用的软件将会成为移动世界中的机床。