What was your first mobile moment today? Maybe it was when you picked up the phone to check the emails that arrived overnight? Or maybe you were checking the weather, your account balance or your calendar so you can better prepare your day?
The term “Mobile Moment”, as Forrester introduces it in its book “The Mobile Mind Shift”, refers to each and every time you reach to your phone to do something. It can be checking your email, taking a picture of your kids or interacting with your company’s corporate apps – all of those are nothing more than a moment when you get your phone and you expect it to do something for you. Anywhere. Anytime.
Building a mobile strategy
In today’s world, talking about Mobility is commonplace. The importance of a well-defined Mobile Strategy has become more and more relevant for companies that understand the need to tackle the mobile challenge in a structured way, and that for mobile there’s no “one-size-fits-it-all” solution. However, from my experience, most of the companies don’t “walk the talk”. I’ve been lucky enough to work with some that do, but many still don’t. This is due to the undeniable fact about the definition of your whole Mobile Strategy: it can be complex and there are a lot of variables to consider. I am not going to be talking about the specific challenges and alternatives for defining a Mobile Strategy in this article, but I would definitely recommend you to check our e-Book about the subject. Please feel free to reach out if you would like to discuss this subject in particular.
I’ve been working in the mobile space for almost 10 years and a lot has changed. The mobile landscape from 5-6 years has been completely erased and the great players of that market back then are not the big players today. Apple and Google redefined what we understand as mobile and Microsoft has ambitions to be to be the 3rd name on the podium. Each company has its own strategy: Apple controls hardware and software in order to give the best possible experience in premium devices; Google goes for complete dominance with smartphones of every size and form; and Microsoft is betting on its Windows 10 strategy and UWP (Universal Windows Platform) apps that can run on every device.
Supporting every “mobile moment”
When you want to provide an app for your users or your employees you need to take a lot of different things into consideration: who are my target users, what types of mobile moments will they have and in which context, what content needs to be made available, which platforms should you support, etc.
For the remainder of the article, I will focus on the more technical part of the conversation, namely the way Microsoft is helping customers around the world build a sustainable mobile business – even if it means not being present in their own mobile platforms, either to begin with or not at all.
Microsoft’s efforts in the mobile world have changed in the past few years and they are now more focused than ever in reaching every user in every platform. This can be seen in moments like: the Office suite being made available in iOS and Android; the acquisition of companies with great apps for other platforms like Acompli, Swiftkey and others; and the development of products like Powerapps and Flow for a specific type of mobile apps, among others.
It’s a different Microsoft today, and that Microsoft recently bought Xamarin, a company that builds technology that allows companies to build apps for iOS, Android and Windows using C# - a comprehensive and mature language – ensuring a native experience at all levels: Performance, User Experience (UX) and API Access.
Xamarin has been around since 2011. The team behind it is the team that created Mono software that allows you to run Microsoft technologies in non-Microsoft platforms. They aim to improve the developer experience when the objective is to develop apps for different platforms, optimizing code reuse, and allowing the complete code to be written in one language only, C#. All of this includes access to all the Native APIs from Google and Apple, with whom they maintain a very close relationship: every time a new SDK comes out they have same-day support for Xamarin.
Xamarin also focused on creating other types of solutions that solved more pains like Xamarin Insights (that allows monitoring the apps for crashes and warnings but also for usage and statistics) and Xamarin Test Cloud (a device cloud that allows you to run automated tests over hundreds of devices) helping customers address the mobile quality challenge. Xamarin and Microsoft were already really close partners and this acquisition is intended to make Microsoft the one-stop-shop for mobile development – independently of the developer’s skills or the target platform.
The perfect cross-platform solution
As the person responsible for the Microsoft business unit in Xpand IT, a Microsoft Gold Partner, and since the company has been developing mobile apps for 7 years I was curious to see if the whole Xamarin value proposition was true. We had tried other cross-platform approaches before, and none of them provided the perfect solution – there was always compromise. The fact is that Xamarin more than lived up to the expectations. We have become Xamarin Premier Consulting partners due to all the work we’ve done for customers in Banking, Media, Industry and Healthcare, among others. But, titles apart, what really excites me is that we can now deliver high quality apps to our customers, helping them reuse code and maintain a sustainable mobile practice.
We have a very close and open relationship with Xamarin and Microsoft – which are soon to be one entity – so I am pretty sure that we will be able to deliver even more value when their solutions are totally integrated, harnessing the power of the cloud while using great developer tools like Visual Studio to deliver awesome apps built with Xamarin.
Another thing that we should keep in mind is the whole DevOps tools that are now totally integrated. By using tools like Visual Studio Team Services (VSTS) we can now manage our development in a completely integrated way, by automating builds, testing in Xamarin Test Cloud and getting the results back and distributing the apps for beta testing using HockeyApp (which will be complemented with a lot of great features from Xamarin Insights).
It’s a pretty powerful concept: develop your app and automate a set of processes that ensure complete optimization of builds, tests and deployment. And everything is completely integrated. Develop, test and get a quality app in your users’ hands as quickly as possible. There’s a world of possibilities for all this technology and we’re committed to using it to help our customers achieve outstanding results!
In the months ahead we’re going to see even more ways that companies can invest in mobile development practices that don’t consist of a one-shot process but rather a continued initiative that starts with developing the apps that address the mobile moments you want to be a part of while ensuring you understand your users and the way they are using what you built. It’s not always an easy road, but not going for it is just not an option – unless you want to be left behind your competition and lose any competitive advantage you may have over you competitors.
Your customers are ready. Are you?
This article is brought to you in association with Xpand IT