Xamarin and Microsoft: The Future of Cross-Platform App Development Posted by: Gordon on 04/04/2016
Gordon Langford is Screenmedia’s Head of Mobile. Following his recent trip to Xamarin in San Francisco as part of Cross Creatives 2016, we've been asked a lot of questions about Xamarin, what it does and what its recent acquisition means for the mobile app development marketplace.
What is Xamarin?
Xamarin is a cross-platform development environment which hit the headlines in February thanks to its acquisition by Microsoft for a cool (rumoured) half-billion dollars. Xamarin provides sophisticated tools for developers to build apps across iOS, Android, and Windows platforms using just one language (C#) while keeping the full benefits of native development.
Since its inception, Xamarin’s active user base has swelled to over 1.3 million developers, driven by the worldwide adoption of mobile technologies and the proliferation of mobile platforms. Xamarin has gone on to become the mobile development platform of choice in 150 companies of the Fortune 500.
Xamarin vs native - what’s the difference?
As a premier Xamarin-certified consulting partner we naturally recommend Xamarin to our clients, but those who are new to cross-platform app development are often cautious. Organisations are used to the idea of specialisation in app development; Android developers develop Android apps and iOS developers develop iOS apps; and in the past cross-platform app development frameworks were marred by poor performance and quality.
Xamarin solves virtually all of the common cross-platform development pitfalls and then some. By bridging the gap between ‘write once run anywhere’ type frameworks and native experiences, Xamarin allows for the core fundamentals of an app (such as key business logic) to be written only once, then have individual interfaces built for each platform so that the experience feels native no matter what type of device is being used.
As the largest independent Xamarin-certified team in the UK, we have a growing list of apps developed for our clients using the framework and their responses are consistent; cross-platform apps built with Xamarin offer completely native experiences and performance without any of the common drawbacks. And, given the cost and organisational efficiencies of just one team working on multiple platforms, Xamarin is a no-brainer for companies looking to build high quality, robust, and easily maintained apps which withstand the test of time.
Microsoft’s acquisition demonstrates two things: that Xamarin are the real deal when it comes to cross-platform development, and that they're. Qualms over working with an unfamiliar framework will disappear with the backing of Microsoft, and we foresee many more companies actively seeking out expert Xamarin developers in the near future.
The growing demands and challenges for mobile app development
Xamarin has in the past been courted by a number of companies in addition to Microsoft; IBM being the most notable; but timing is everything in the world of tech. IBM may be ruing their tardiness but in truth Xamarin would always have been more at home with Microsoft (it's technology is based on .NET after all!) Enterprise mobile is a booming sector - every year mobile visits account for a greater and greater share of total web traffic. We are experiencing more and more companies and public sector clients beginning to recognise the benefits of mobile, both for their own internal efficiencies and for their users’ satisfaction.
Looking to the future, the growth of wearables and the number of platforms which we need to develop for is increasing one Kickstarter at a time. Managing or mitigating the sheer number of specialist teams needed to develop for these platforms is becoming a key challenge, and one that Xamarin is currently well placed to tackle.
Growing industry acceptance of Xamarin
Back in the day Apple very were protective of their iOS platform, and were known to take a dislike to apps built using cross-platform frameworks. But the times have changed; it was smiles all round as Apple and Microsoft shared a stage at last year’s launch of the iPad Pro. This thawing of relations is likely to push more developers towards cross-platform frameworks, safe in the knowledge of Apple’s acknowledgement of their growing importance.
The media attention around the acquisition has also boosted Xamarin’s profile with enterprise developers. Not to say that this wasn’t the case before - we have ourselves seen a slow but steady ‘awakening’ among many of our own enterprise clients. In all we anticipate a bright future for Xamarin, with both increased interest and newfound opportunities as part of Microsoft’s growing catalogue of products.
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