Microsoft is in the final stages of negotiations that could lead to either an acquisition or major investment in Xamarin, a mobile startup whose tools make it possible to code iOS and Android apps using Microsoft development tools, sources with knowledge of the discussions told CRN recently.
It's not clear whether the talks are ongoing or if a deal has been finalized. But with Microsoft holding its Build conference next month in San Francisco, acquiring Xamarin would send a powerful message to developers that things are going to be different under new CEO Satya Nadella, sources told CRN.
CRN reached out to Xamarin and Microsoft for comment. Xamarin declined to comment, and CRN will update this story if we hear back from Microsoft.
Adding Xamarin would allow Microsoft developers to code iOS and Android apps using Visual Studio and application life-cycle management tools such as Visual Studio Team Foundation Server, a collaboration platform that supports agile development, multiple IDEs and runs on premise or in the cloud.
For Microsoft, this could amount to an explosion of apps that tie into Windows Azure and other Microsoft services. So while Xamarin enables Microsoft developers to build apps for competing platforms, Microsoft would benefit from the expanded services opportunity, as well as additional licensing revenue for Visual Studio, Team Foundation Server and other tools.
"This would definitely be a big statement from Nadella, and could be the beginning of a really big strategy shift for Microsoft," Scott Stanfield, CEO of Vertigo Software, a Richmond, Calif.-based Microsoft development partner, told CRN.
"It would almost be like a gift to the .Net community -- Microsoft would be saying, sorry we aren't stronger in mobile, but now we're going to make it so developers can play in both worlds," Stanfield added.
Given the decline in Windows revenue, it would make sense for Microsoft to focus on making money from Azure and cloud services, Rocky Lhotka, CTO of Magenic, a Minneapolis-based Microsoft partner, told CRN. "The more client devices they can reach with their platform, the better off they are," he said.
Adding Xamarin also would solve Microsoft's longstanding problem with the low app count on its app store. According to some Microsoft partners, Xamarin would instantly create a robust, vibrant ecosystem of excited developers who would no longer have to wonder if the work they’re putting in building Windows Phone apps is worth the effort.
"Visual Studio needs to have a way for mobile app development to be platform-agnostic," Ric Opal, vice president at Peters & Associates, a Microsoft partner in Oakbrook Terrace, Ill., told CRN. "Developers want to write once and land on any target. If Microsoft makes it easier for developers to build apps for any platform, they will accelerate the quantity and quality of apps in their apps store."