Microsoft acquisition opens door for cross platform mobile application development

xamarin triple

A Xamarin app adapts its interface to look native, not alien, on each device you use it on.

Credit: Mary Branscombe

Two days ago, Microsoft announced the acquisition of Xamarin, a platform that allow developers to create IOS, Android and Windows Phone applications using C#. The acquisition represents a great win for both Microsoft and Xamarin but also opens the door for a new cross platform mobile application development technology to enter the enterprise.

This week, Microsoft announced the acquisition of enterprise mobile market leader Xamarin. The acquisition is the culmination of years of successful collaboration between the two companies in which we saw Xamarin become the favorite of .NET developventuring in the mobile world.

From a capability standpoint, Xamarin provides a cross platform model to develop iOS, Android and Windows Phone applications using .NET. More recently, Xamarin extended its offering with solutions for monitoring, managing, and testing applications developed in the platform. The acquisition of Xamarin is a great addition to the Microsoft stack and a great complement to the Azure platform that has become one of the lead platform as a service (PaaS) offerings in the market.

The acquisition of Xamarin follows the recent acquisition of Appcelerator, another cross platform market leader, by Axway. With the two main cross platform mobile app development solutions belonging to larger enterprise software players, the market might be open for a new platform.

A new cross platform mobile app development solution?

For years, Xamarin and Appcelerator have dominated the cross platform mobile application development space in the enterprise. The acquisitions of both companies have created a void in the market for a new solution. After analyzing the characteristics in the development of the enterprise mobile platform ecosystem, as well as enterprise software markets in general, we can identify a few factors that are facilitating the entrance of a new cross platform mobile app development technology in the enterprise.

The cross platform mobile app technology space is still young

Despite its rapid development, we should remember that cross platform enterprise mobile development platforms are still in their infancy. While Xamarin and Appcelerator exhibit impressive customer lists, they are still a small percentage compared to the size of the market. Factors like new requirements from customers, or new technologies in the mobile space can open the door for the entrance of technology stacks in the enterprise.

Targeting a different segment of the enterprise developer population

Not all developers like .NET or the Appcelerator stack. A cross platform mobile application development solution that is based on new programming frameworks can find relevant traction within the enterprise developer community.

The IoT factor

Mobile has been the dominating new user experience in the enterprise. However, soon we should see new form factors like smart watches, wearables, or other smart devices become relevant in enterprise scenarios. This transition should expand the market for cross platform mobile application development technologies increasing the options for new players in the space.

The VR factor

Similar to the previous point, virtual reality (VR) is called to become a relevant element of new user experiences in enterprise solutions. The first generation of VR platforms is tightly integrated with mobile solutions. Consequently, we should expect new cross platform mobile application development solutions to provide some forms of interoperability with VR stacks.

Google, Oracle, Amazon need an answer

The acquisition of Xamarin provides Microsoft with a phenomenal solution to attract mobile app developers. Microsoft’s competitors like Google, Amazon, or Oracle are likely to look for a competitive alternative. In these situations, it is quite common that the challenger platform establish a common front behind an open source technology. Cloud Foundry, OpenStack, and even Android are examples of platforms that experienced wide adoption based on this model.

Tapping into new programming stacks

Emerging programming stacks such as Node.js, AngularJS, ReactJS, Go, Spring Boot, etc. have captured the hearts of enterprise software developers. Leveraging some of these technologies as the foundation of a cross platform mobile application development solution is likely to receive a healthy level of adoption within those developer communities.

Is React Native the new challenger?

From the frameworks in the market, React Native seems to be building a lot of momentum towards becoming a reliable enterprise cross platform mobile application development platform. The newly open sourced React Native builds upon Facebook's JavaScript-based approach for web development, ReactJS, retargeted to native iOS and Android app creation with new models and patterns that have challenged traditional approaches.

In just a few months, React Native has built an impressive set of capabilities and a very vibrant developer community that is actively contributing to the technology stack. By building on a general programming stack, React Native has developed interoperability with many technologies and frameworks which facilitates the rapid implementation of very complex solutions. Additionally, React Native is currently being used in a very impressive number of mobile applications.

A popular cross platform mobile application development stack, a vibrant developer community, a fairly sophisticated feature set, and a fast growing adoption in the mobile consumer market are some of the factors that are likely to contribute to React Native’s adoption in the enterprise. However, these factors might not be enough to push React Native forward in the enterprise. Similar to Xamarin and Appcelerator, React Native might have to developed enterprise-ready capabilities in areas such as application monitoring, security, testing, or operational management, which are essential in enterprise environments. In any case, React Native appears to be an exciting technology that could become increasingly relevant in the cross platform mobile application development space.

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