Microsoft and Xamarin

March 13th, 2016 by Stephen Jones Leave a reply »

The growing importance of mobile devices and applications is cleary seen in Microsoft’s February announcement that it was acquiring Xamarin, a platform provider for mobile app development. Xamarin is used by more than 1.3 million developers, . Business Insider recently listed it among “The 9 startups that secretly run the Internet.”

Before the deal, Microsoft and Xamarin were already partners. Microsoft has incorporated Xamarin integration into Visual Studio, Microsoft Azure, Office 365, and the Enterprise Mobility Suite.

Business users’ preference for mobile apps over mobile-friendly web sites is pronounced and growing, says Weinstock. Apps are more targeted than websites and require fewer taps before the user is accessing the information he or she needs,

Supporting diverse client operating systems presented an obvious difficulty for Microsoft’s developer division, whose Visual Studio tools were all about Windows. When Microsoft first launched .NET in the early 2000s, it promised a cross-platform environment that could reach beyond Windows. The company did publish an early FreeBSD-compatible version of .NET named Rotor, and it produced versions of its Silverlight plugin for OS X, but functionally, .NET was a Windows-only affair, with the other platforms distant memories.

Windows 10 was meant to usher in the era of the Universal Windows Platform (UWP), where developers can write one application and have it run on devices ranging from Raspberry Pi, smartphones and Xbox consoles, to tablets and PCs. Unfortunately, Microsoft lost the mobile OS wars to iOS and Android long ago. Xamarin adresses this problem, by providing compilers for Microsoft’s C# language to target iOS and Android.

Microsoft turns forty this April and is staring at a serious mid-life crisis. Of course, Microsoft is still the third-most valuable company on the planet, with a $90 billion cash pile. But there’s some serious clouds hang over Redmond’s future. Is was on a slow but steady path to irrelevance in a “consumer-first, cloud-first, mobile-first” world. PC sales are falling but smartphone sales are sky-rocketing, and Microsoft is shipping less than 3% of those smartphones. Certainly, the future isn’t what it used to be. People don’tpurchase a mobile phone for the hardware. We buy into the apps and ecosystem around the mobile platform and that’s a chicken-and-egg situation for Microsoft and its Windows Phone platform.

Less than 10% of app developers target Windows Phone as the primary platform. Understandably so, for they make next to nothing from developing for the Windows Phone platform. The multitude of traditional Microsoft developers can now potentially become mobile-app developers, without having to learn new programming languages. This could help alleviate the “app-gap” (i.e., the lack of apps and an anemic appstore) to some extent extent.

Following this acquisition, Microsoft will have a developer stack that targets all the important desktop and mobile platforms. It is an obvious move. Xamarin fills an important gap in .NET’s platform reach, and it’s is a first class peer to the Windows .NET stack. Microsoft’s purchase brings its original ambition for .NET full circle, opening the door to even greater unification of Xamarin and .NET. Going forward, this could lead to parts of the Universal Windows Platform becoming cross-platform,

According to Gartner, by 2016, 70 percent of the mobile workforce will have a smartphone, half of which will be purchased by the employee, and 90 percent of enterprises will have two or more platforms to support. Faced with high expectations for mobile user experiences and the pressures of BYOD, companies and developers alike are looking for scalable ways to migrate business practices and customer interactions to high-performance, native apps on multiple platforms.

To meet this need to support heterogeneous mobile environments, Microsoft and Xamarin are making it easy for developers to mobilize their existing skills and code. By standardizing mobile app development with Xamarin and C#, developers are able to share on average 75 percent of their source code across device platforms, while still delivering fully native apps. Xamarin supports 100 percent of both iOS and Android APIs—anything that can be done in Objective-C or Java can be done in C# with Xamarin.

In just two years, Xamarin has amassed a community of over 440,000 developers in 70 countries

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