Microsoft, by either acquiring or investing in mobile app development startup Xamarin, would help developers tap into a ton of new mobility and cloud computing opportunities, according to some partners.
Xamarin's tools make it possible to code iOS and Android apps using Microsoft's Visual Studio and C# programming language. In addition to letting .Net developers write code for multiple platforms, Xamarin could get iOS and Android developers on board with coding Windows Phone and Windows 8 apps.
Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was famously resistant to working with rivals' platforms, but partners think buying Xamarin would be a great way for new CEO Satya Nadella to show developers things are going to be different under his watch.
"Explicit targeting of multiplatform development in Visual Studio would be visionary, courageous and a fantastic piece of outreach to the developer community," Andrew Brust, CEO of Microsoft analyst firm Blue Badge Insights, New York, told CRN.
As first reported by CRN on Monday, Microsoft, Redmond, Wash., is in the final stages of negotiations that could lead to either an acquisition or major investment in Xamarin, which has raised $28 million in two funding rounds since its founding in 2011.
Partners said buying Xamarin likely would help Microsoft solve its issue of not being able to attract much action on its app store. Multiplatform support in Visual Studio also could help Microsoft's carrier partners by cutting the number of support calls they get when people switch devices and their apps stop working.
Dave Sobel, director of partner community at GFI Software, a Durham, N.C.-based Microsoft partner, said bringing Xamarin into the fold would be good news for Microsoft cloud developers.
"Putting the Microsoft development community on iOS and Android, and also making it easy to build those cloud apps on Azure, would be a huge move for Microsoft's cloud business," Sobel told CRN. "Making their developer tools cross-platform on mobile would be insanely smart, and would push them in compelling new areas."
Signs of the budding Microsoft-Xamarin relationship were evident at last year's Build conference in June. Xamarin threw a big party and several Microsoft people showed up, including members of the Windows team -- a wrinkle that wasn't lost on many conference attendees. Last November, Microsoft and Xamarin formed an official partnership based on marketing and technical integration.
At this year's Build event, to be held April 2-4 in San Francisco, the companies would have a perfect stage for revealing that they’re taking their relationship to the next level. Whether or not that means an acquisition remains to be seen, but Microsoft partners are nevertheless giddy with anticipation about what could be a big step in a new direction.
PUBLISHED MARCH 21, 2014