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Microsoft To Buy Mobile Dev Xamarin

Microsoft said this week it intends to acquire Xamarin, the mobile cross-platform development company.

Scott Guthrie, Microsoft's Executive Vice President of the Cloud and Enterprise Group, made the announcement on his official blog this morning. "We have had a longstanding partnership with Xamarin, and have jointly built Xamarin integration into Visual Studio, Microsoft Azure, Office 365 and the Enterprise Mobility Suite to provide developers with an end-to-end workflow for native, secure apps across platforms," wrote Guthrie, in a blog post on the site today. "We have also worked closely together to offer the training, tools, services and workflows developers need to succeed."

"This acquisition is a new beginning for Xamarin -- the company and its products -- and is an opportunity to help many, many more developers build great apps," wrote Xamarin CEO Nat Friedman, on a blog on the Xamarin site. "Like many of you, I see Microsoft and Xamarin as a perfect fit. Microsoft's mobile-first, cloud-first strategy is a great match for the Xamarin products and team."

Independent analysis was just as predictable as it was immediate. "At Forrester we've been expecting this acquisition for a while -- it just makes too much sense for both parties and their customers," said Jeffrey Hammond, a principal analyst at the research firm, who covers application development and delivery, in his blog. Hammond lists a number of pros in which Microsoft's buy makes sense, which includes tighter integration with tools built for native cross-platform development, and another piece in a larger mobile infrastructure portfolio that Microsoft has been crafting ever since Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced the company's "mobile-first, cloud first" mission. Hammond also alludes to the "can't go wrong recommending Microsoft" pitch:

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.

Predicting with more specific technological insights, Wallace McClure, a partner in Scalable Development and a Visual Studio Magazine contributor who writes frequently on Xamarin, said he sees "a steady improvement in the .NET framework both on iOS/Android and the Windows versions. There is a lot of knowledge that goes into these products. I am sure that there are implementation details that the core .NET team knows that the Xamarin guys do not. I am sure that there are details about the .NET framework and garbage collection that the Xamarin guys know that the core .NET team does not, or at least does not appreciate quite as well as the Xamarin guys." He adds: "For me, this validates the marketplace as well as validates the amount of work that Xamarin has done, as well as the work done by other developers using Xamarin's tooling."

McClure has more questions than opinions as a result of the acquisition, though, particularly with how it puts Windows Phone on a shelf, so to speak: "Where does this leave Windows Phone? WP is dying in the marketplace. Does this put the nail in the coffin of WP? I think so." McClure's also wonders whether the company "looked at WP's market share and felt that it was dead. MSFT may want to be a mobile, platform, and services company, but what do you do if your mobile platform has less than 1 percent [smartphone] marketshare?"

Microsoft is buying a company with a number of solid tools and offering -- Xamarin Platform, Xamarin Test Cloud, and Xamarin Insights, as well as other niche offereings such as Xamarin for Visual Studio and Xamarin.Forms and Xamarin Profiler -- and a customer base in the thousands, and well over 350 employees who have been driving the company's successes so far. What happens immediately is an unknown, especially whether all those employees will be absorbed.

Also up in the air is whether Xamarin Evolve, which has shot up in attendance this past year, will exist into the future as its own event after the upcoming one in remains to be seen. As well, Xamarin has put lots of effort into building a wealth of training resources into Xamarin University. XU is also one of the listed benefits of the Visual Studio Essentials program, so whether those resources are absorbed as part of Microsoft Virtual Academy or some other part of the Microsoft Learning curricula offerings is also up in the air at the moment. (Microsoft has so far not commented on these and other questions about the acquisition.)

Xamarin was created four years ago by founders Nat Friedman and Miguel de Icaza. Friedman and de Icaza were both at one time affiliated with the GNOME project and together they created Ximian, based on the work they did on the Mono project. Soon after Ximian was acquired by AttachMate, Friedman and de Icaza brought on some of the developers laid off during the buyout to form Xamarin, where they continued their Mono-based development efforts.

About the Author

Michael Domingo has held several positions at 1105 Media, and is currently the editor in chief of Visual Studio Magazine.

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