Xamarin Beckons Windows Developers to Build iOS and Android Apps

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he thinks apps written in HTML5 or JavaScript never look quite right on actual iOS or Android devices. And every added layer of abstraction creates the opportunity for more bugs, which have to be traced back through every layer, he says.

In Xamarin’s world, developers still have to adapt their apps three times for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone, but at least the apps come out looking and working better, Friedman asserts. “Three developers sit down to write a mobile app. One is using Objective-C in Xcode, one is using PhoneGap, and one is using C# and Xamarin. The Xamarin guy builds a better app, faster. That is our mission in life.”

It’s an ambitious mission, to be sure. Whether the average C# developer really has the design, UI, or UX chops to build a great iOS or Android app is the kind of question that can start a religious war, so I won’t ask it. But for millions of developers who spent the 2000s immersed in Windows and .NET, and are unconvinced that Windows Phone will conquer the world, Xamarin’s tools could offer an easy way to join the excitement around iOS and Android. And as it turns out, they’re signing up to try MonoTouch and Mono for Android at the rate of 600 per day, with many eventually converting to paid plans at a not-insignificant $249 to $1,499 per seat license per year.

Xamarin co-founder and chief technology officer Miguel de Icaza

Eventually, Xamarin will add more paid features to the MonoDevelop environment, such as pre-built code modules that could help developers build apps even faster. “I’d like to build a company generating $100 million in sales a year,” Friedman says. “We have existence proofs that we can get there. Look at Atlassian—they’re a $100 million company and most of that is from bug tracking tools.”

Does Friedman regret cutting short his globetrotting to help de Icaza rescue Mono? Not at all.

“It was an easy decision because mobile is so cool,” he says. “I went to a floating village in Cambodia where people have no electricity and no plumbing and live on rafts with tents on top, and they have phones. Once in a while a guy will come by with a car battery that they use to charge them. Those are all going to be smartphones in a shockingly short period of time. So if you can do something to improve mobile software, that is going to be a big thing for everybody.”

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Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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