May 14, 2013

A Suit for Every Occasion. Going Mobile the Right Way with Xamarin

Mobile is here, mobile is now, mobile is everywhere. Mobile is where your customers are and it has rapidly become the best place for your brand to become a lasting part of your customer’s life. Apps have been downloaded billions of times to billions of devices; and still, mobile is young (Apple’s app store launched less than five years ago!). As this market matures and consumer preference changes along with it, consumer demand for quality is skyrocketing.

The metaphorical bar has been lifted and, unfortunately, most of the turnkey solutions and app generators out there just can’t reach it. To keep your users interested, your mobile app needs to do more than just echo your brand on their device, it needs to do so in a way that fits in to that user’s lifestyle and daily interactions. Interacting with your app shouldn’t feel like the user has left their world, your app should feel like an extension of their world.

Turnkey solutions and “app generators” have popped up all over the market causing an influx of “me too” and one size fits all interfaces. Running a search on an app store can turn up hundreds of apps for your search, so how do you stand out from the crowd? How can you capture the user’s emotion? Of course a great marketing team will help you go far in getting in front of users, but what is it that drives success once you’re there?

Quality! Surprised? I wouldn’t think so. Quality should drive all of your decisions for mobile. “How can a mobile presence improve the quality of my brand or campaign?” “How can I leverage mobile to improve the quality of life of my customer?”  Getting an app out there without thinking through the quality of the user experience can have a lasting negative effect on your brand through reviews and user perception.

Every phone operating system presents a different ecosystem and experience to the user and developer. Achieving quality on all platforms can seem like a ridiculously difficult task. The majority of the cost associated from this doesn’t generally come from the user interface; the cost comes from the time spent on porting libraries of backend code and business logic to each platform. To download a file and save it on each phone OS requires completely different code. Taking a picture? Different code for each OS. There is nearly zero cross platform abilities when using the recommended approach for each phone.

Hello Xamarin

Xamarin has done all of the hard work. Their mobile tools allow a developer to write all of their business logic targeting the .net framework and then use that same code on each mobile platform. The code you write is directly bound to the native calls for each platform, the performance is native and in some cases (Android) it actually out performs apps written using the standard tools. As a developer this can be summed up in one word, Freedom!

Things like downloading a file, taking a picture, getting a user’s location can all be written once, tested thoroughly, and tucked away so we can focus on delivering that awesome experience that you and your customers expect. When using Xamarin, the bar is not out of reach, we are the bar. We are able to dress our experience for the device and user in a way that feels natural and engaging; we can wear the right suit for every occasion.

The folks at Xamarin have a broad vision of the world. With employees living all over the world and working on every PC platform available, the Xamarin team has cross platform in their DNA. They are the team that implemented the open source versions of Microsoft’s .Net Framework (Mono) and have brought the C# language to nearly every device on the planet.

But what has Xamarin done for you lately? A lot! As a longtime user and Xamarin partner, I recently attended the Xamarin Evolve conference in Austin Texas for both the training/certification and the conference talks. During the conference keynote, Nat Friedman (CEO) and Miguel De Icaza (CTO) announced that they were bringing the latest version of the C# language (along with F#) to their mobile frameworks. They also announced an automated testing framework to allow you to upload an app and test it on hundreds of physical devices all at once. In addition to the new products and features, they announced the ability to develop iOS apps on Windows using Microsoft’s Visual Studio development environment, a move that is sure to make many enterprises very happy.

The announced Xamarin test platform, called Test Cloud is an absolute game changer. It greatly reduces the cost barrier for testing large application rollouts and updates. The attention to detail and quality that Xamarin showed with the product is inspiring. My tweet below sums up my feelings during the keynote and they have yet to change.

Over the last few years we have been increasingly happy with the Xamarin products and the value that they allow us to provide for our clients. There are way too many benefits for me to list them all here but the key is that these benefits are all targeting at improving quality, cost, and enjoyment; which echoes our core values. As always, we are happy to pass this value and experience on to you!

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