Xamarin Buys RoboVM, Adds Java to its C# Fold

Xamarin acquired RoboVM to enable developers to build native iOS and Android apps in Java as well as the previously supported C# language.

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Xamarin acquisition of RoboVM

Xamarin, a maker of cross-platform mobile development solutions, today announced that it has acquired RoboVM, which provides tools for native iOS and Android development in Java.

The Xamarin enterprise mobility solution enables native iOS and Android application development in C#. Thus, the acquisition brings together the top two languages in enterprise development and a path to mobile for millions of enterprise developers—and up to 13 million overall, according to analysts.

Financial terms of the deal for Xamarin to buy Goteborg, Sweden-based RoboVM were not disclosed. However, Xamarin officials say the two companies have taken nearly identical approaches to enabling successful enterprise mobility. Xamarin and RoboVM apps are fully native iOS and Android apps—native UI, native performance, and complete access all of APIs for each device platform—built from a shared code base across device platforms.

With this move, Xamarin captures the attention of the majority of app developers in the enterprise, which either focus primarily on the Microsoft .NET-fueled C# or on Java.

Indeed, the acquisition means that Xamarin now controls the cross-platform mobile development market for the most widely adopted languages capable of native, client-to-server, cloud-to-mobile development.

"If Xamarin were to build a Java solution from scratch, it would look like RoboVM because they took the same native-first approach in their design," says Nat Friedman, CEO and Xamarin co-founder, in a statement. "If you love Java, you are going to love RoboVM for iOS and Android development."

IDC estimates that between five and seven million developers work in Java, making it one of the largest developer ecosystems in the industry. The language for enterprise applications and data center operations, as well as for Android app development, Java is used in a broad array of devices beyond smartphones and tablets, including: wearables, cars, drones, TVs, refrigerators, and many other IoT devices.

Yet, while enterprises have largely skilled internal development teams, they struggle to fully staff the capabilities needed for iOS and Android development; Forrester reports that 50 percent of organizations have fewer than five developers in-house, barely enough to field a single mobile team, especially if an app is built for both iOS and Android.

"Using a cross-platform application development approach has emerged as one of the most popular approaches for building enterprise mobile apps, especially when coupled with generation of native platform code,” said Al Hilwa, program director for IDC's Application Development Software research, in a statement. "Xamarin is able to address the two largest ecosystems for native mobile application development today with its support for C# and Java."

RoboVM allows enterprises to extend native, Java-based Android apps to iOS—or to develop iOS apps from scratch—while tapping into their Java skills, resources, and code.

"Our mission is to enable Java developers to create beautiful native mobile apps quickly," said Henric Müller, CEO at RoboVM, in a statement. "Xamarin’s market-leading position in enterprise mobility means that we will be able to scale our reach and enable mobile success for millions of developers."

Xamarin has seen considerable growth over the last year as the C# community began to move to mobile development. Unique developer downloads have more than doubled in the last year, now at over 1.2 million, and sales have grown at an even faster rate, the company said.

Following a $54 million series C funding round in August of 2014, Xamarin expanded into adjacent areas of the mobile application lifecycle with Xamarin Test Cloud and Xamarin Insights.

Xamarin Test Cloud enables developers to test apps on more than 2,000 devices and receive results within minutes, versus the days or weeks-long feedback cycle of manual testing. The service works for any native or hybrid app, not just apps built in C# with the Xamarin Platform.

Xamarin Insights provides sophisticated crash and user reporting to further improve app quality and performance for mobile C# developers. The company will soon bring this functionality to Java developers targeting iOS and Android.

This acquisition gives Xamarin another built-in source of new customers for Xamarin Test Cloud and Xamarin Insights, and new lifecycle products as the company expands its product portfolio, Xamarin officials said.

Xamarin and RoboVM will operate independently to ensure each team stays focused on their C# and Java user bases respectively. RoboVM will emulate Xamarin’s growth models in developer marketing, sales, and customer success to scale their business; and RoboVM customers will benefit from Xamarin’s enterprise-grade mobile expertise.

"I think this is an important expansion strategy for Xamarin to take their approach to another major ecosystem," IDC's Hilwa told eWEEK. "They have been successful at taking C# developers to the mobile Promised Land and they saw an opportunity to do the same with Java developers who have struggled to find a good way to do Java on iOS."