Archive for Mobile

Modern Mobile Application Development with Xamarin and Azure App Services

In order to stay relevant in today’s digital revolution having a mobile application is vital. It is almost expected by your customers and employees that companies have a mobile app to connect and share information with customers. However, companies often run into trouble when it comes to designing and developing their app. In this article, we will look at why you should develop your own mobile app using Xamarin and Azure Apps Service by Microsoft.

What Do Xamarin and Azure Mobile Apps Have to Offer?

Xamarin is Microsoft’s mobile cross-platform solution for developing apps for iOS, Android, Mac and wearable technology. Xamarin makes it easier to develop apps by using the C# language and the ability to test on hundreds of devices via the Xamarin Test Cloud. Azure App Service is Microsoft’s back-end as a service solution that provides all the necessary features for building flexible and scalable mobile apps. Being able to scale your app will be helpful when your newly created Xamarin app becomes the #1 selling app in the app stores!

One advantage of Xamarin is that you only need to write the code once (C#) and then you can run your app everywhere, allowing your company to reach your customers on any platform. On the Azure Mobile Apps side, a key advantage is that you have one back-end service that can be used by iOS, Android and Windows devices. Working in tandem, these offerings can help make your app a major success.

How Xamarin Can Help Create a Successful App

When it comes to having a modern, cross-platform mobile app, there are a few key features that are needed and the Xamarin platform, along with some help from Azure Mobile Services are able to make your app a successful one

Mobile Engagement and Notifications

Modern Xamarin Apps tailor the user experience and engagement with dynamic, context aware notifications. This means that users gets notifications when they really want them and when they can provide the greatest impact on the user. Azure Mobile Engagement provides the API functionality for getting insight into the Xamarin App usage and real-time segmentation. This provides the contextual awareness that is needed before any notification is sent. The Azure Notification Hub is a service that provides the functionality to send notifications across all platforms. You can then take advantage of Azure Machine Learning to provide predictive analytics to tailor the user notification experience.

Storage

Modern mobile apps are expected to have online and offline data access to all cloud drives, services and on-premise systems. The Xamarin Platform simplifies how to store and access data from each platform via ADO.NET framework and SQLite Data Provider. To save you from having to learn each platform, storage API and idioms, Azure Mobile Apps allows you to choose from SQL database, Azure Table Storage, MongoDB, DocumentDB or even connect to other services like Salesforce and Office 365. This is all done via API provided by Azure.

Authentication

Successful apps these days never ask a user to register or create an account. Instead, modern apps use Azure Mobile Services for single sign-on, OAuth/OAuth2 such as connections into Facebook, Twitter, Google and Microsoft Accounts. Your Xamarin Apps can takes advantage of this via the Azure Mobile Service SDK without having to write any code.

Testing

Modern Apps need to work. This means you can’t have your app display error messages, crash or freeze. The days when users forgive and wait for an update are long gone. Users have high standards for their apps and, if yours is not up to par they will not hesitate to delete it. No matter how beautifully your app is designed, if it is slow or it crashes on a user, they’ll be quick to send your app to their trash bin. Xamarin Test Cloud along with Azure Application Insight provides you with the tools to test your app on hundreds of devices, allowing you to capture performance and monitor activities. By taking advantage of these features you can reduce the chance of bugs on the final version of your app by being able to test and clear them up early in the process.

Conclusion

Today’s digital age requires that your modern app provides a rich and tailored experience on day one. If you do not have the capital to re-invent the wheel or deal with fragmented systems, Xamarin and Azure Mobile Apps are the perfect combination to use for your app. Here at BlumShapiro we stand ready, with Xamarin and Azure certified consultants ready to help you build your modern app.

About Hector: 

hectorHector Luciano, Jr., is a Consulting Manager at BlumShapiro, a Microsoft Gold Partner focusing on SharePoint, Office 365, mobile technologies and custom development solutions. Hector is focused on delivering high value solutions to his customers in Mobile and SharePoint.

Is Windows 8 a Game Changer?

For the sake of transparency I will share the fact that I do not own any Apple products.  No iPhone, iPod or iWhatever.  That said, I will give Apple a lot of credit as they have developed a signficant presence in the marketplace with their iPod and iPhone product.  Now, by no means were these products revolutionary.  In fact, I was at first bemused by all these people going out and buying iPods when I had a Windows Mobile 5 or 6 device that not only allowed me to carry around tons of songs, but also served as my phone as well.  Seemed odd that I would want two devices…  Anyway, Apple eventually came around with the iPhone that unified these.

The reason Apple was successful was for two reasons.  First, the product was standardized.  As a result, a whole industry of accessories was born where you could by a case, a speaker dock, etc. and know it would work.  The second was that Apple marketed the heck out of it to consumers.  Microsoft never really marketed their smartphones to consumers.  They were business productivity devices designed to compete with Palm and Blackberry.

Today it is all about BYOD (Bring Your Own Device).  The principle here is that IT is expected to support any device within the corporate walls.  Realistically, however, this is not feasible.  For example, I have had countless conversations with CIOs where they are trying to figure out if they should support iPads and how they will impact the organization.  At the end of the day these are great entertainment devices, but will not run any common business application.  In fact, in most situations, you have to custom create any app that you might want to use to allow your workforce to be productive.  Further, that app is something custom and specific to the iPad.  It can’t be used by anyone anywhere else.

So, where does Windows 8 come into play?  For the first time, there will be a single platform that I can write an application for that will work across the desktop, the tablet and the phone.  That is powerful.  Further, most of my applications that I wrote to work on a desktop or laptop will continue to function on Windows 8 Professional.  As such, I can give my sales guy a sleek, lightwieght, ultra portable multi-touch tablet and know that once he is done delivering his PowerPoint presentation he will be able to open up Outlook to send some email and then open up his fat client application to talk to our old ERP system.

That’s just one scenario.  Another is the fact that from a skillset perspective the Windows 8 platform is second to none.  A large chunk of businesses have taken on staff that knows the Microsoft .NET platform (C#, VB.NET, etc.).  Building an application for Windows 8 using these tools/technologies requires a small amount of training.  To create an application for the iPad I need to know Objective C and have an Apple OS to build on.  Not many midsize companies will tolerate having a full time iOS developer on staff.

These are just two of the many reasons that Windows 8 is going to be the best, most successful operating system release since Windows 95.  I am looking forward to the release and discussing the applicability of the new OS to our clients’ businesses.

As a partner with BlumShapiro Consulting, Michael Pelletier leads our Technology Consulting Practice. He consults with a range of businesses and industries on issues related to technology strategy and direction, enterprise and solution architecture, service oriented architecture and solution delivery.