Is Microsoft about to buy Xamarin?

Is Microsoft about to buy Xamarin?

Summary: Rumors are swirling that Microsoft may buy or invest significantly in mobile-development tool vendor Xamarin.


Many .Net developers are abuzz about a rumored acquisition or major investment by Microsoft in Xamarin.

CRN reported on March 17 that Microsoft was "in the final stages of negotiations" that may lead to either an outright acquisition or investment in the mobile tool vendor that has been a major backer of Microsoft's C#.

Neither Microsoft nor Miguel de Icaza, Xamarin's cofounder, are commenting on the rumors. De Icaza did tweet a couple of related tidbits on March 17, however:


"Working together with Microsoft's .NET team for the last four months has been an absolute delight. So excited about the future," de Icaza tweeted last night.

In November, Microsoft and Xamarin announced a tighter development and marketing partnership aimed at developers interested in writing apps in C# for iOS and Android devices. Xamarin CEO Nat Friedman said the two had stepped up their involvement in the months preceding the November 2013 announcement.

When asked by "Mr. 64" on Twitter if he had moved to Redmond or was working remotely for Microsoft, de Icaza tweeted:


"We collaborate over email; but we are an independent company, I don't work for MS."

Xamarin's founders have been members of Microsoft's Visual Studio Industry Partner (VSIP) program since Friedman and de Icaza were at Novell. Microsoft removed restrictions four or five years ago that prevented VSIP partners from extending Visual Studio for non-Microsoft platforms. As a result, Xamarin was free to build the Xamarin.iOS for Visual Studio product that is the cornerstone of today's Xamarin 2.0 platform

Microsoft and Xamarin's involvement hasn't been all roses. At one point, de Icaza chided the Softies that he loved .Net developers more than Microsoft did, given Microsoft's seeming preference for HTML and JavaScript for Windows 8 development. More than a few Microsoft developers -- especially those focusing on building business apps -- agreed (and still do) with de Icaza's characterization.

Microsoft officials began last year to try to repair some of the damage the previous Windows management did to the company's relationship with its .Net developers.

This year at its Build conference, Microsoft is expected to continue in that vein. Word has leaked that Microsoft is building a new version of Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF), the framework for building desktop applications, that many believed Microsoft had abandoned the way it had Silverlight. It sounds like the new WPF could be one of the topics addressed at Build. (De Icaza told another person on Twitter yesterday that he'd recommend using WPF to build new projects.)

Microsoft officials have been forging a number of partnerships with tool and framework vendors to try to grow the number of Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 apps. Microsoft has struck deals with Unity, Havok, Marmalade and Corona Labs to help bring more games to its platforms. I don't know if it's indicative of Microsoft's planned approach with Xamarin, but the Softies do seem more intent on partnering with tooling and framework vendors than buying them outright.

Microsoft also is unveiling this week an updated version of its Direct X framework, DirectX 12. As was the case with WPF, DirectX was rumored to be in Redmond's dead pool, but is seemingly very much alive.

Fun fact for Microsoft history buffs: This isn't the first time there have been rumors that Microsoft was interested in having de Icaza join the firm. Back in 2003, Microsoft Distinguished Engineer Don Box serenaded de Icaza to the tune of "Michele" during a rooftop party at PDC. (I was there!) Sadly, I think the video clip of this is gone. Update: Nope, the video lives on. You can download it from here. (Thanks Felix.)

One more fun fact: Microsoft is holding a press event on March 27 that is focusing on mobile and cloud. Office on iPad is likely the main announcement, but maybe a Xamarin purchase/investment could be part of this, too? (Just pure speculation and dot-connecting on my part about this piece.)

Topics: Windows 8, Android, iOS, Microsoft, Software Development, Windows Phone


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • I've suspected this is coming since the sudden Xamarin/MSFT love fest.

    Microsoft needs a truly crossplatform solution that offers a compelling reason to be on Windows for development. Xamarin has one. Xamarin exists because Novell couldn't get enough money out of it - but Novell had no real need or interest to be in the .Net market.

    Problem is, Xamarin is stuck with base CLR and Forms (kinda). It needs WPF. Microsoft needs WPF on all the other platforms. Xamarin's already done WPF by way of Moonlight.

    Slap all this together and the solution is obvious: Microsoft buys enough of Xamarin to essentially 'own' it and then they can parachute in enough inhouse talent to help Xamarin bring Mono up to speed.

    What would really help is if they could find a way to lower the price because right now, that's the biggest impediment to use, especially for hobbiests and small businesses. Outright buying it and gluing it into Visual Studio would be an even better thing TBH.
    • Blend

      Where does Blend fit into this love triangle? I find it kind of weird that there are some things I can do with Blend I cannot do with VS and vise versa. I find my self going back and forth between them. I do not really have favorite.
  • MS Development is embracing FOSS

    (at risk of feeding the troll) Much of MS developer APIs is becoming open sourced, ASP.NET, various .NET libraries, etc. MS doesn't have a problem with FOSS in the right place, APIs. Just look at Scott Hanselman's blog for numerous examples.

    It's Copyleft OSS that they don't really care for, as they should. We generally have more freedom to use FOSS from MS the way we want than that produced by licenses like the GPL or the Linux community which must always and forever be open source. (I know there's the exception of the MS limited public licenses, however its use is much less common)

    Xamarin should definitely get closer to or join MS and its emerging FOSS developer culture to reinforce it.
  • I hope that Xamarin is kept true to its roots

    Xamarin really adds to the .NET value proposition, by showing that .NET is a strong platform for open source projects, as well as Android and iOS development.

    A whole culture has built up on .NET development, what with Unity and Mono, that is both cross platform, and yet keeps an open mind about Microsoft, rather than the "Microsoft is evil" thinking that once prevailed in the past. If Microsoft is smart, it will ensure that it builds on this, rather than jeopardizes it.

    The Xamarin tools, done the right way, will build on their big wins in Azure, and give people a sense that Microsoft has really befriended the entire developer community.
  • Great product

    from what I've seen. I've been looking seriously at using it for mobile development, but finding it a bit pricey at the moment.
    • Student

      If you have a student in your team you could buy enterprise for 99 dollars each, since Im a student I got that price
      • Is that even kosher with the TOS.

        Usually commercial use for student licenses is expressly forbidden.
        Sam Wagner
  • This would be a good move

    Microsoft needs to do something concrete to repair it's relationship with MS stack developers. Under Sinfosky's reign of terror, they pretty much did everything they could to drive us off.
    Sir Name
  • It would be ironic if .NET became a "write once, run everywhere" platform

    There's nothing particularly Win32 about it (though Windows Forms (which Xamarin has abstracted) is basically a wrapper around User32 and Gdi32).

    The .NET Framework is the "nicest" api set I've every used (where "nice" is measured in completeness, intuitiveness, etc.).
    • re:

      If memory serves, write once, run pretty much anywhere was one of the original visions for .NET.
      Sir Name
      • Yeah, kinda-sorta, but...

        It as certainly one of the architectural goals, but never one of Microsoft's real goals. Their goal was to advance the Windows dev platform way past the legacy of Win32 and Windows DNA (the ASP+COM kludge that early IIS apps used). They did it in a way that wasn't strongly tied to Windows, but moving it away from Windows wasn't really the goal

        (Now, they did submit both the Framework and C# to ECMA and the ISO and got them approved as international standards - but that was mostly for marketing reasons)

        The irony in my statement is that "write once - run everywhere" is a Java mantra (often transcribed as "write once - test everywhere").
        • re:

          That's why I used the term vision instead of goal. Combining with what you said, it would have been one of the original architectural visions, but not one of Microsoft's original business goals. Which is also why Sinofsky drove a stake into the heart of Silverlight. The architectural vision was brilliant, but flew in the face of his division's business goals.
          Sir Name
    • I was looking at some SQLite code for Objective C the other day

      and couldn't help but think, as I looked at the 500 line monstrosity, "this would take me 20 lines of code in C#"!
      • Not after adding the 10,000-20,000 lines

        of the required runtime...

        they end up about the same.

        Could always use perl... 4-5 lines for the same thing...
        • Huh?

          That runtime also runs everything else that is C#.
          Michael Alan Goff
        • Eye rollingly irrelevant

          1.) Nobody will write a mobile app in Perl.
          2.) The 90s called and wants one of its interpretive languages back.
          3.) Objective C has a run time too, its called Cocoa Touch... welcome to modern programming!
  • Right Now Bring Back Silverlight 6

    After all Adobe Flash plug In is still enabled on Internet Explorer, but not Microsoft own (Superior) Line of Business Silverlight Web Platform.

    If Microsoft really believed in supporting its .NET developr base, it would announce Silverlight 6 at Build along with XNA 5.
  • Would love to see a write once run on MS

    I wish MS had a write once run on any MS platform tool. This is what is keeping me out of the MS world right now. Just can't afford to learn multiple tools for just one vendor. Would love to see XBox, Surface, Azure and desktop development from any toolset.
    Some of you will say that no one else does that, but that doesn't matter. Little shops that are innovating great ideas have to pick and choose the best bang for the buck. MS needs a single tool uniting all their offerings in order to compete with the number of devices you get with iPhone (yes, i said it) or Android.
  • Is Microsoft about to buy Xamarin?

    I would give that a big fat NO! Xamarin just signed an agreement with Samsung work together to Bring Advanced Security to Enterprise Applications. Right now EHS (Everybody Hates Samsung). I doubt MSFT will get in bed with Xamarin after an agreement like that with Samsung. I am leaning towards a significant investment. Xamirin stakeholder should be smiling from ear to ear right about now.
    lenalfred DaredDarkurious
    • yes

      Xamarin invests in knot. Guess what, look up knot and microsoft and you will see that microsoft has just sign a deal with samsung. So much for that one!