Microsoft has taken a big step towards their goal of being able to run their software everywhere, not just on Windows exclusively. Microsoft has announced that it will buy Xamarin, a company that helps software developers write applications for mobile devices. Xamarin enables developers to use Microsoft’s programming language C# to develop applications that can run on any device, including Windows, Android, iOS, Linux and OS X. Although terms of the deal and price were not disclosed, it is estimated to be more than $300 million.
Microsoft is moving forward and breaking from tradition with this purchase. Microsoft and Xamarin have had a long term partnership, but by taking it a step further and bringing the company in-house, it demonstrates that Microsoft is serious about cross-platform support.
In the past, Microsoft has only supported its programming languages and tools on its own operating systems. However, many developers want to use C# and Microsoft’s .NET framework on Linux. In order to fulfill this need, a company called Ximian created Mono, an open source clone of .NET that allowed developers to use C# on operating systems other than Windows. In time, the Ximian team founded Xamarin to continue to support Mono and additionally create new tools for mobile developers.
A sizable number of startups have been purchased by larger companies chiefly for their engineering talent and not their products. Developers worry that Xamarin’s technology could disappear after this acquisition. However, Scott Guthrie, executive vice president of Microsoft’s cloud and enterprise group reassures, “This is definitely not an acquihire. There are more than 300 people on the Xamarin team. We very much view this acquisition as an opportunity to take what they’ve built and make it a core part of our strategy.”
In addition, Scott Guthrie said Xamarin would continue offering development tools to write for Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS mobile operating systems. Xamarin reports to have 15,000 customers in 120 countries.
Microsoft’s intentions are to expand and branch out into new territories, on one hand observing that mobile developers have flocked to Android and iOS and web developers have standardized on Linux. On its conquest, Microsoft first announced to support Linux on its cloud service Azure in 2012. Then in 2014, it open sourced its .NET framework and last year announced a free version of its popular Vision Studio development environment that runs on OS X and Linux along with Windows.
This purchase reveals a great deal about the competition between Google, Amazon Web Services and Microsoft to control the computing world over the next few years
A.W.S., Google and Microsoft’s Azure business rent access to globe-spanning cloud computing systems, all with millions of servers. Their goal is to fill them with capabilities that developers can take advantage of to create products faster. Essentially, they want to get corporate business into their clouds, and then sell them additional features.
With Xamarin offering their development services, developers have the ability to choose any cloud to manage and release their mobile applications, but it will be tightly integrated with Azure. It includes features that will not be available with competing clouds. While A.W.S. and Google appear to have significant advantages in this competition, Microsoft proves to have the most corporate software in existing servers, and is attempting to transfer those customers to the Azure cloud. In turn, Xamarin can turn those into mobile apps. This approach makes sense.
The wheels are in motion as Microsoft welcomes a major change towards expansion. With an emphasis on cross-platform support to integrate all operating systems and their strategy for cloud computing domination, the company is steadily advancing.
In addition, Microsoft’s acquisition of Xamarin only solidifies the platform and it’s technology, which will no doubt continue to grow at a rapid pace into the foreseeable future, especially given the growth in the IoT (Internet of Things) and Wearables markets.