I think Google just hit one over the back fence that will especially benefit small businesses. Starting today, Google Labs is offering a no-programming-required tool to create your own apps for the Android.
Granted, you get what you pay for (it's free) and the apps you can build are pretty simple and limited. However, development options include using location-based features with GPS (heads up: local businesses), creating simple games (customize for branding!), quizzes (I see potential for training, product tutorials and customer surveys) and easily programming timed text messages to specific lists of users(coupons and specials alerts!).
Remember, this is the beta version. You do have to sign up and wait for Google Labs to get back to you with approval to participate. No word on the turnaround time to get up and running. Today is the first day, keep in mind.
I filled out the form myself (with the intention to use it as an educational tool in my classroom this Fall). It was all of six questions and took me 30 seconds. I'll let you know on this blog if and when I hear back.
This reminds me of free DIY web site building tools. Yes, they are boilerplate and a little amateurish. But for the self-employed or small business on a budget, it's a great way to get your name out there and customers know the score. They know the little guy can't afford to drop a ton of money on slick technology. They just want information about you and anything that makes it easier to access your business.
In the near future:
I see local pizza places creating an app to make ordering home delivery a breeze.
I see real estate agents creating customized listing alerts for potential buyers with the option to book a viewing time.
I see CPAs offering a "What's deductable this year?" quiz to rope in potential clients and retuning clients.
I see Apple getting nervous.