Only a few years ago you’d have been hard pressed to have mentioned the following four words in a single blog post where you weren’t arguing for / against a way of doing things: Microsoft, iOS, Android and development.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock you will no doubt have seen Microsoft’s announcement on their intent to acquire Xamarin, a business very much about cross-platform application development.

For those of us working in this space this has really been a case of
“what took you so long?” rather than “why?”.

So why should you care? Let me explore this for you…

Please note I don’t have any more insight than you in what the acquisition means. However, based on Kloud’s experience building real business and consumer solutions using Xamarin, I’m going to give you what I think it means to those of us who develop platform-specific applications.

Some background

Microsoft has been working independently of Xamarin to produce its own toolchain for cross-platform application development for the past few years. You’ll note the majority of these are about enabling solutions on any platform which, again, is very different to Microsoft of years gone by.

Portable Class Libraries (PCLs)
A great enabler that unlocks transportable .Net code. These are a big part of the success of Xamarin as they have allowed popular .Net libraries to be made available for use off-Windows, even prior to Microsoft open sourcing the .Net Framework.
https://msdn.microsoft.com/library/gg597391(v=vs.100).aspx

Visual Studio Tools for Apache Cordova
Cordova is a great tool for facilitating rapid delivery of cross-platform applications where you are prepared to forgo some aspects of native capability. If you have a bunch of web-centric developers then the foundation components for Cordova will seem very familiar. The Visual Studio tooling is some of the best you’ll find and is actively maintained.
https://www.visualstudio.com/en-us/features/cordova-vs.aspx
Azure – Mobile Apps, Notification Hubs & Mobile Engagement
Probably the most mature mobile back-end platform about. Integration with APNS and GCM just works and the quick-starts are a great way to dip your toes into mobile application development. The addition of Capptain in 2014 (now Mobile Engagement) bolstered this offering.
https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/services/app-service/mobile/

Windows Bridge for iOS (formerly Project Islandwood)
There’s no denying iOS and Android are leading platforms, so how do you allow existing applications to run on Windows? You use a Bridge.
https://dev.windows.com/en-us/bridges/ios
Windows Bridge for Android (formerly Project Astoria)
This one’s an interesting one. Unlike the iOS Bridge, Astoria isn’t moving ahead. What happens here? We’ll have to wait and see, though no doubt Xamarin plays a part.
http://www.windowscentral.com/microsoft-officially-cancels-project-astoria-bridge-porting-android-apps-windows-10-mobile

So, C# is the future?

If you’re an experienced iOS and Android developers using Objective-C, Swift or Java you don’t need to drop everything you’re doing and pick up C#.

Chances are you aren’t particularly interested in it… but… you are in an extremely good position to pick up and run with development in this space using Xamarin and C#. Also, you can always import those native libraries you are already using anyway if you find a gap (which is unlikely).

C#’s syntax should not hold a lot of surprises for many iOS and Android developers, and as you already know a lot about the UI constructs on each platform you’re ahead of the pack. While it’s true that a C# developer can quickly deliver solutions using Xamarin, the nearer you get to the UI experience the more platform-specific knowledge you require, even if you leverage something like Xamarin.Forms.

APIs ahoy!

Existing C# developers also get benefits here as they can quickly build cross-platform solutions and only leverage specific skills for certain aspects of the applications (typically the UI). Write it once, deploy on any platform (where have I heard that before???) really comes true here in many cases.

Many great apps are let down by terrible APIs, either through poor performance or security. Imagine a world where your API implementation experts can also write the client libraries that will consume those APIs? C# and Xamarin unlocks this scenario.

But I already have an app for X

When I spoke about Xamarin at TechEd Australia 2013 the number one question I got after the session was along the lines of “I already have an native app on X, why would I use Xamarin?”

This is a fair question and to suggest that you simply re-implement the application in C# with Xamarin is not the answer you want to hear.

No doubt, though, you are eyeing at least one other major mobile platform in the market and wondering how your existing application can reach that platform.

You have two choices: go native or go cross-platform.

This is your sweet spot – go cross-platform. Eventually you will find a smaller incremental change will deliver you the same cross-platform application on your existing platform of choice.

Yeah, but a native app’s so much better

In the smallest of circumstances you may be right. As I said, Kloud has successfully built and deployed heavily used enterprise and consumer applications that I would dare you to pick as having been developed using Xamarin.

Xamarin has spent a lot of time documenting real-world use of their technology that I’d recommend you go and digest.

But it’s Microsoft!

Yes it is.

The one that has the leading productivity apps on iOS and Android platforms, supports Docker, has its own OpenSSH port, open sourced the .Net Framework, its JavaScript engine and works in the open on GitHub.

Microsoft’s strength has always been its understanding of the developer and the tools they need to do their work. Now with Xamarin you get this benefit regardless of your platform of choice.

Happy Days! 🙂

Category:
Azure Platform, Business Value, Mobile
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