Microsoft announced it is acquiring Xamarin, the mobile app development firm that specializes in developing apps for iOS, Android and Windows using Microsoft’s C# programming language. The buyout, the specifics of which are being kept under wraps fits in well with Microsoft’s strategy of re-inventing itself as a key player in the software business.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has also been focussing on cross-platform mobile app development efforts which even include its traditional competitors like the Apple iOS and Google’s Android.
Not only has Microsoft made available its famed Office software suite to the iOS and Android, but the Redmond company has also been aggressively buying various productivity apps in its bid to emerge as a major player in the mobile software business.
Microsoft’s association with Xamarin, however, dates back to 2013 when it had announced it is partnering with the San Francisco-based startup to enable developers to build apps for iOS and Android using Visual Studio.
Also, Microsoft’s move to reach out to users owing allegiance to rivals’ platforms also makes sense in that its own Windows for mobile never really could take off. With the vast majority of mobile users hooked on to iOS or Android, it makes sense to reach out to them with suitable app offerings rather than waiting for them to join the Windows for phones bandwagon.
The Xamarin acquisition also presents a unique opportunity for Microsoft to readdress one of the key deficiencies that have been plaguing its mobile ambitions, that of lack of enough quality apps.
Maybe Microsoft might even go to the extent of making Xamarin free with the hope of luring in developers in a desperate attempt to have its own App store populated with enough apps.
That might be a bit tall ask given that Xamarin subscriptions aren’t quite affordable to even small companies, let alone individual developers. It’s only the big companies that can afford Xamarin suite.
Another challenge Microsoft might have to deal with is to make existing Xamarin employees adopt to a quite rigid corporate environment that is typical of Microsoft. In contrast, Xamarin has always had a somewhat open and collaborative working environment.
So far, Microsoft’s high-profile acquisition of Nokia never had the impact it might have dreamt of, and it surely wouldn’t want a repeat of the same with Xamarin.