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Finally! Microsoft Acquires Mobile Cross-Platform Development Startup Xamarin

Nearly two years after CRN first reported Microsoft was in acquisition talks with Xamarin, the software giant pulls the trigger on a deal that mobile development partners say is a game changer.

Microsoft said Wednesday that it has inked an agreement to acquire mobile application development startup Xamarin, nearly two years after CRN first reported that the two companies were in talks about an acquisition or strategic investment.

Terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

Xamarin's technology lets developers build native iOS and Android apps using Microsoft's C# programming language, which means they can write one set of code and use it for apps targeting multiple platforms.

[Related: Microsoft In Talks To Acquire Mobile App Development Startup Xamarin -- Sources]

Xamarin has more than 1.3 million developers and 15,000 customers using its technology, including more than 20 percent of the Fortune 500, Scott Guthrie, executive vice president of Microsoft's Cloud and Enterprise Group, said in a blog post Wednesday.

"The combination of Xamarin, Visual Studio, Visual Studio Team Services, and Azure delivers a complete mobile app dev solution that provides everything a developer needs to develop, test, deliver and instrument mobile apps for every device," Guthrie said in the blog post.

Xamarin's co-founders, CEO Nat Friedman and Chief Technology Officer Miguel de Icaza, founded Ximian in 1999 and worked together to build Mono, an open-source implementation of the Microsoft .Net development framework. They joined Novell in its acquisition of Ximian in 2003 and left to start Xamarin when Attachmate bought Novell in 2011.

A Microsoft spokeswoman told CRN that de Icaza and Friedman will be joining Microsoft in the acquisition. "This isn’t just about acquiring innovative technology, it’s also about acquiring a strong team, and we want to keep that team together," said the spokeswoman.

Xamarin has been a Microsoft partner since 2013, and has had a large presence at the software giant's Build conferences since then. Xamarin also has partnerships with IBM, Salesforce.com, SAP and Oracle.

Acquiring Xamarin is the latest in a series of moves Microsoft has made in the past two years to make it easier for developers to build mobile apps by reusing code across multiple platforms. Microsoft has also open sourced parts of .Net to make it more suitable for cross-platform development.

Microsoft app development partners told CRN they're pleased to see the software giant stepping up to acquire Xamarin.


"It’s a great day," said Tim Huckaby, CEO of InterKnowlogy, a Microsoft partner in Carlsbad, Calif. "We have gone too long with a disjointed set of tools from multiple vendors, hoping to successfully build cross-platform applications. Something had to be done, and this is the most logical next step."

One knock on Xamarin has been its high price tag; its top-of-the-line offering costs $1,899 per developer per year, while its second-tier offering goes for $999 per developer annually. Although Xamarin also offers a basic "Indie" version for $25 per developer monthly, the higher-end tools are out of reach for many smaller development shops.

Developers who've been clamoring for Microsoft to acquire Xamarin and integrate it with its existing tools told CRN they're hoping the deal will make the technology more affordable.

"If Microsoft rolls Xamarin into MSDN like they have with Visual Studio, so it doesn’t cost [$1,899 per developer] to use the tool, that is a serious game changer," Rocky Lhotka, CTO of Magenic, a Minneapolis-based Microsoft app development partner, told CRN.

"If every existing Visual Studio 2015 user now has the ability to build for iOS, Android and OS X as part of their existing MSDN subscription, this will open the floodgates for building cross-platform apps with .Net," said Lhotka.

Microsoft's Xamarin buy is the latest example of CEO Satya Nadella's all-out push to get Microsoft software running on as many competing platforms as possible. Some partners also see it as a major philosophical shift for a vendor that once held a mock funeral for Apple's iPhone to celebrate its own Windows Phone launch.

"This move by Microsoft has the bold potential to unite developers of all platforms around the world to a single set of developer and developer life cycle tools; not just Microsoft platform developers, but all developers," said Huckaby.

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