It's no secret that the success or demise of a computing platform largely depends on the developer community behind it. Google seems to share this notion and today they announced a new Labs program that should lower the barriers for those interested in creating Android mobile applications. The program in question is a website called App Inventor and it is essentially designed to make building Android applications as easy as piecing buttons and other UI elements together.
The tool has reportedly been under development for about a year, and while apps built with it may lack the sophistication of Android apps coded by professional developers, there's a lot you can get done without much programming background. App Inventor provides access to GPS, accelerometer, and orientation data, phone calls and texting, speech-to-text services, contact data, persistent storage, and web APIs that connect to several popular online services.
App Inventor is in closed beta at the moment, but Google says it'll let people in "soon" -- you can sign up here. In the meantime the company has provided some of what can be built using its set of online tools, including DroidMuni which displays schedules for the San Francisco transit system; ParkIt, which records the location of the user's car, a quiz game called Super Hero Game; and a basic beat making app that goes by the name DrumKit.