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Microsoft Buys Xamarin, Bolsters Cross-Platform Mobile Efforts

Microsoft on Wednesday announced its acquisition of Xamarin, a provider of cross-platform developer tools for building mobile apps.

Over recent years, Microsoft has been steadily integrating Xamarin's functionality into its own products, including Azure, Office 365 and the Enterprise Mobility Suite, and most notably Visual Studio. The 4-year-old Xamarin's unique approach to cross-platform mobile development uses the .NET-centric C# language to create one codebase to use across iOS, Android, Mac and Windows platforms, making it a natural fit for Microsoft.

"In conjunction with Visual Studio, Xamarin provides a rich mobile development offering that enables developers to build mobile apps using C# and deliver fully native mobile app experiences to all major devices -- including iOS, Android, and Windows," said Scott Guthrie, executive vice president of Microsoft's Cloud and Enterprise Group, in a blog post Wednesday. "Xamarin's approach enables developers to take advantage of the productivity and power of .NET to build mobile apps, and to use C# to write to the full set of native APIs and mobile capabilities provided by each device platform. This enables developers to easily share common app code across their iOS, Android and Windows apps while still delivering fully native experiences for each of the platforms. Xamarin's unique solution has fueled amazing growth for more than four years."

"We love the native iOS, Android and Mac APIs and we love C#, and this acquisition is an ideal next step for us and for our customers," said Xamarin CEO and Co-Founder Nat Friedman in his own blog post.

Xamarin, which itself acquired RoboVM for Java functionality last fall, reportedly has more than 15,000 customers around the world, with more than 1.3 million developers having used its tooling.

"With today's acquisition announcement we will be taking this work much further to make our world class developer tools and services even better with deeper integration and seamless mobile app dev experiences," Guthrie said. "The combination of Xamarin, Visual Studio, Visual Studio Team Services and Azure provides a complete mobile app dev solution that provides everything you need to develop, test, deliver and instrument mobile apps for every device. We are really excited to see what developers build with it."

In addition to its C# dev tooling, Xamarin's offerings include a Test Cloud for mobile app testing against a wide variety of devices, Xamarin Insights for real-time mobile app monitoring, and Xamarin University for live mobile training.

Microsoft hasn't indicated yet what its exact integration plans are, but more information is promised at the Build developer conference on March 30 and the Xamarin Evolve show in late April.

In the meantime, analysts are weighing in on the move.

"This move makes Microsoft a must-consider option throughout the stack when it comes to mobile development," said Forrester analyst Jeffrey Hammond in a blog post. "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."

Over at IDC, analyst Al Hilwa said in an interview that "this is a great exit for Xamarin."

"Speculation of this acquisition have been going on for some time, but now it makes more sense than ever given Microsoft's pivot under Nadella," Hilwa said. "Microsoft is increasingly doing open source and is pushing forward with a multi-platform approach. Xamarin has built a surprisingly strong business around the .NET ecosystem of developers, giving them the opportunity to build mobile apps on iOS and Android. Most of these developers continue to support and develop Windows apps given their C# skills, so this is generally a positive move for them to see the technology inside of Microsoft."

About the Author

David Ramel is editor in chief of Visual Studio Magazine and Application Development Trends Magazine.