It’s no secret that Microsoft has struggled to become relevant in the mobile market. According to Strategy Analytics, Microsoft managed just 3% of the mobile market in 2014, down from 3.3% in 2013. Mobile apps generated an estimated $35 billion in revenue during 2014 and are projected to reach over $76.5 billion by 2017 (source). Obviously, the mobile app market cannot be ignored.

This hasn’t been lost on Microsoft. According to Todd Brix, General Manager of Windows Apps and the Store Team: “We began the year with a commitment to create opportunities for developers with Windows Store. We made good progress by both attracting over 30% more active users and by exceeding a 110% year-over-year increase in app downloads and gross sales. In addition the ecosystem has grown, with an 80% increase in registered developers and 60% increase in app selection year-over-year.” He went on to explain that making the Windows platform accessible for developers of all skill levels, while simplifying and unifying the app development process, would be a focus in 2015. So far, they’ve been good to their word.

In November Microsoft and Xamarin announced an expansion of their global partnership. Xamarin is an Integrated Development Environment (IDE) that allows developers to create applications for Android, iOS, OS X, and Windows in the popular C# programming language, using a single interface. In addition, it’s the only IDE that allows native development for all of these platforms inside Visual Studio, Microsoft’s IDE for the .NET framework.

The integration of these two products really began to pick up speed two years ago with the release of Visual Studio Live 2013. Xamarin, who started off developing Mono (a .NET system for Linux and Android), was given access to, and incorporated, the reference assemblies needed to implement the .NET Portable Class Library, allowing for unprecedented compatibility across the three mobile platforms. At the time, Xamarin estimated that around 75% of code could be shared between platforms. In addition to the technical collaboration, training and support was expanded and MSDN subscribers were given access to better trials and pricing.

During 2014 Xamarin continued to build. They added support for shared projects and released both Xamarin Designer for iOS and Xamarin.UITest. At a joint press conference held on November 12, 2014, representatives for Microsoft and Xamarin announced that with the release of Visual studio 2015, they were “excited to take the partnership to the next level.” While short on technical details, here are some of the highlights:

  • A free version of Visual Studio, Visual Studio Community, will be available soon. With support for extensions, Visual Studio Community will be fully compatible with Xamarin Starter Edition (also free).
  • Xamarin Starter edition has doubled the size limit of apps that can be created. It should be available in March.
  • Visual Studio 2015 will include Xamarin templates and developers will be able to download Xamarin tools directly from the Visual Studio IDE.
  • A  20% discount for Visual Studio Premium and Ultimate MSDN subscribers for Xamarin Business or Enterprise Editions, development training with Xamarin University.

The continued cooperation between these two industry leaders should be a boon to developers as well as the end users of the apps they produce. Allowing programmers to stay with the IDEs that they are familiar with, while incorporating the best tools of both (like Microsoft’s IntelliSense and Xamarin’s Test Cloud), should make life easier and more productive for developers on both sides. App users will benefit from increased choice and quality. Will this help Microsoft’s expansion into the mobile market? Only time will tell. It’s certainly a step in the right direction.

If you have any questions or would like to learn more about Xamarin, please contact Seamgen today.