Xamarin Acquisition Amplifies Microsoft's Comprehensive Mobile Development Strategy

Today Microsoft announced that it is acquiring Xamarin. Terms were not disclosed. Our lead mobile app dev analyst Mike Facemire was on a plane somewhere near Buffalo at the time of the announcement, so I've posted the team's combined thoughts here. Our take: This move makes Microsoft a must-consider option throughout the stack when it comes to mobile development. For those not familiar with Xamarin, here’s what Microsoft is getting:

  • Cross-platform native mobile app development, in C#. Xamarin’s origins include Mono (remember that?), and it represents the expansion of the .Net runtime to other platforms, including iOS and Android. Developers write C# code that will be natively compiled to these devices, which runs at similar speed as apps written in Objective-C, Swift, or Java.  

  • Automated acceptance testing for mobile apps. Xamarin develops and maintains the Calabash open source project for mobile acceptance testing. We’ve seen growing popularity of Calabash amongst enterprise mobile dev teams, especially Global SIs, like those we reviewed in last year's Enterprise Mobile App Services Forrester Waves.  

  • A device cloud for system and performance testing. The Xamarin Test Cloud automates app testing on more than 2000 real devices in the cloud. We expect to see this service folded into Azure in short order, with a low cost on-demand model to compete with Amazon Device Farm, Google Cloud Test Lab, and PerfectoMobile.

  • On device analytics to measure mobile apps. Measuring apps is just as important as building them. While the importance of analytic instrumentation is still a work in progress for many enterprise developers, experienced mobile devs get it. Xamarin Insights provides a basic working set of technical and engagement level measures for mobile app dev teams.

At Forrester we've been expecting this acquisition for a while -- it just makes too much sense for both parties and their customers. Here's why:

  • Building apps twice is once too often for enterprise development shops. We still get regular inquiries from clients on "Native vs Web. vs. Cross-platform". And many of these requests come from clients that have already made significant investments in one strategy or the other. The bottom line: very few mobile dev shops are comfortable with their current status quo. Everyone wants native look and feel and speed, but without multiple code bases to maintain. Xamarin gives Microsoft a strong cross-platform front-end development approach that allows mobile teams to have their cake and eat it too.

  • Xamarin’s biggest sales objection is now removed. In our (frequent) conversations with clients about Xamarin, a recurring question pops up: “Should we trust this highly strategic technology decision to a small vendor?” In the past six months we’ve seen mainstream buyers become less concerned about this objection as Xamarin has stood up enterprise mobile app case studies, but today’s acquisition removes that concern entirely.

  • Microsoft gets a better front end development story. Microsoft is well on its way to building a strong mobile infrastructure services portfolio on the back of the Azure public cloud. But the front-end message was a bit jumbled between native + Xamarin or Microsoft’s first class Apache Cordova tools. We think this acquisition makes the cross platform approach the preferred one for Microsoft, although it does not signal Microsoft’s move away from the web -- Cordova remains an option for app development, and TypeScript is the underlying technology behind AngularJS 2.0, the latest version of the dominant web development framework.

What it means for App Dev professionals:

Xamarin is a solid cross-platform mobile app development play if you already have in house .Net skills or have invested in the Visual Studio set of development and application lifecycle tools. The next shoe to drop will be the existing Xamarin partnerships with IBM, Kony, Oracle and SAP. We don’t think this acquisition will exclude these prior partners from leveraging Xamarin from a technology perspective; but we also wouldn’t be surprised if it altered the attractiveness of the relationship to these firms.

 

We’ve previously written about how Satya Nadella has righted Microsoft’s ship over the past 2 years. Now the company is making a strong move to be the development platform of choice for all mobile platforms, not just for Windows 10. Azure now supports multiple languages for back-end cloud development, including NodeJS. Development tooling is *much* more accessible by all audiences, both .Net shops and otherwise thanks to VS Code and lighter-weight Visual Studio development suite offerings. Microsoft has established a strong set of digital application platform services and developers are responding. This acquisition is yet another sign of the new cross-platform, public-cloud focused Microsoft. We don’t expect it will be the last...

Comments

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The given information very impressed for me really so nice content.

Thanks!

Glad you found it helpful

Nice thought, but...

Having used the platform a few times in our office on projects, the unfortunate truth of Xamarin is similar to other all-in-one platforms. It sounds easier to use than in actuality.

What does work well is having a single platform to define business rules and architecture for services with Xamarin. We found that data between platforms flowed smoothly.

What doesn't is the front end UI. Clients come to us with Xamarin solutions because it could save them money, when in actuality it costs virtually the same amount of time. Because you "save" on the project with development resources, you can't work on both platforms concurrently. We started with iOS, then moved on to Android only to find that there were several bugs that caused us to go back to fix iOS to make both platforms work.

Android UI was a nightmare. It did not work very well at all in Xamarin.

If Microsoft wants to use it as a back door into getting app developers to build more for their platform, I can see why they made the deal. However, Xamarin's growth will hit a ceiling because native development will always make better apps, regardless of the cost.

Thanks for the feedback

I think we'd agree that if funding or finding devs isn't an issue a native approach will always be the most flexible. But for lots of our clients finding native dev talent remains a problem. And as the number of desired mobile apps at enterprises swell from a handful to dozens - there's an app gap that needs to be filled. It will be a real challenge to go native across the board to meet that demand.

It's a good time to be a mobile dev...

I don't think I was intending

I don't think I was intending the sticking point to be funding. I get wanting an inexpensive platform to work in, but the learning curve to get quality Xamarin apps out the door vs. native is much greater in actual practice rather than theory.

Having priced both (and our engineers run at the same rate regardless of platform), the cost savings just aren't there by the time you get it out the door.

Good post

Good post

The acquisition is truly

The acquisition is truly great news. Presenting a powerful alternative to native development, Xamarin has been one of the best cross-platform solutions on the mobile market for a while now. The only fact that made some of our customers question going for https://www.scnsoft.com/cross-platform-mobile-development “> cross-platform mobile development with Xamarin was, as mentioned here, the risk of investing in a proprietary technology of a quite small company. And the customers had the right to hesitate: to invest money in development of a Xamarin-based application and see the company suddenly collapse on one of these days would be a disaster.

We’ve been telling about the negotiations between Xamarin and Microsoft, but certainly couldn’t guarantee that they’d be successful. So now, as the two have officially partnered up, Xamarin has gotten rid of, probably, the biggest of its disadvantages and sure will get even more clients among both end-customers and developers.

The acquisition is truly

The acquisition is truly great news. Presenting a powerful alternative to native development, Xamarin has been one of the best cross-platform solutions on the mobile market for a while now. The only fact that made some of our customers question going for cross-platform (https://www.scnsoft.com/cross-platform-mobile-development) mobile development with Xamarin was, as mentioned here, the risk of investing in a proprietary technology of a quite small company. And the customers had the right to hesitate: to invest money in development of a Xamarin-based application and see the company suddenly collapse on one of these days would be a disaster.
We’ve been telling about the negotiations between Xamarin and Microsoft, but certainly couldn’t guarantee that they’d be successful. So now, as the two have officially partnered up, Xamarin has gotten rid of, probably, the biggest of its disadvantages and sure will get even more clients among both end-customers and developers.

Mobile App Development

Well, it sounds good that companies are focusing and exploring opportunities for Mobile App users.

With the increasing boom of mobile app users around the world, we hope to see some more strategies in upcoming future.

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