Archive for Xamarin

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.

Testing: The Key to a Successful Mobile Application

Can you believe it has been over 10 years since the smartphone revolution came into full effect? Along with the devices themselves, we have seen an increase in the number of applications created, now reaching over two million apps and spanning a wide range of categories. These apps not only address a multitude of user needs—but are able to be used with ease on a variety of devices and operating systems. So, how do they do it? How can these mobile applications operate across different platforms and still perform brilliantly for the end user? Well, there is really no secret to it—it is all about testing. If you are developing an app which will likely be used by millions across varying platforms, then you must have a solid testing solution to ensure a positive user experience—no matter what the device or platform is. How do you test your new application? Well, there’s an app for that!

Here are my top 3 cloud-based application testing platforms and tools to help your app be as successful as possible:

Xamarin Test Cloud

My first recommendation is Xamarin Test Cloud. Xamarin provides access to over 2,000 real mobile devices in the cloud. This testing platform provides remote capabilities to the devices in the cloud, allowing you to deal with issues in real time. In Xamarin, your mobile app is tested using scripts that you create. These test scripts are built using a framework called Calabash, which runs on both iOS and Android. Upon completion of your test, results and performance analysis are displayed in dashboards and even include a recording of the test. What sets Xamarin Test Cloud apart from other testing platforms comes from the thoroughness of the program:

  • Number of cloud devices available
  • Native integration of automation capabilities to perform user interactions
  • Ability to capture performance
  • Ability to integrate with other testing tools (TFS, Jenkins, TeamCity, etc.)

If your team uses automation scripts and targets a large set of mobile devices, then Xamarin will be the best testing platform to meet your needs.

Xamarin

SauceLabs

SauceLabs provides native, hybrid and web testing combinations of emulators and simulators for the most popular devices. These capabilities are provided instantly, no waiting! SauceLabs also provides access to the device using a remote desktop session for debugging and analysis. Some of the key features of SauceLabs is that it can integrate with most CI platforms and that test scripts can be written in multiple of languages (Ruby, Python, Node.js, or C# using Appium automation framework). The key differentiator between SauceLabs and Xamarin revolves around the pricing structure. Using SauceLabs, packages start as low as $19 a month for manual testing, including the use of the Appium framework, the leading mobile testing framework out there.

 

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Perfecto

My final recommendation for mobile app testing is Perfecto. What sets Perfecto apart from the above testing platforms is that they provide a private cloud to build your mobile app. This enhances the security and allows you to test against a wide range of conditions. This feature makes Perfecto a strong fit for dedicated enterprise apps, banks and financial service applications.

Perfecto

 

When it comes to mobile app testing, there are plenty of resources available. The three listed above are just a few of my favorites, but there are certainly plenty of options to suit all of your needs. It is now time for you to go out and start building and testing your own mobile application!

Mobile Testing CTA

The Importance of Microsoft’s Purchase of Xamarin

Dashboard on a TabletThe Xamarin purchase by Microsoft is important for developers, entrepreneurs, startups and companies of all sizes. In the last 5 to 10 years, the industry has drastically changed, starting with the introduction of mobile devices and continuing with the rise of “Internet of Things” (IOT). Xamarin addresses these industry trends by being a versatile tool that builds software on any OS and can be distributed to any platform. With this purchase, Microsoft gives the industry a clear signal: mobile is here to stay. The future of software development will be done on any OS using the .Net Framework and distributed to any platform or device.

What’s in it for Developers?
Microsoft mobile developers could not be happier to hear that the years of invested knowledge and study will continue to have marketable value in the industry. But, Microsoft must choose its next step wisely. Current prices for Xamarin Tools are out of touch with the expectations of home grown developers, who would rather build on tools like Cordova or on the specific OS platform, rather than pay an annual fee. Of course, the discussion on pricing is much more complex than simply pleasing developers expectations. Xamarin accomplished the impossible, but they also have to make money in-order to continue delivering a great set of Mobile Development tools. It is up to Microsoft to clear the path forward. If they do, mobile developers will be waiting (and chanting).

What’s in it for Startups?
Mobile App startups rely on LEAN and RAPID tools for developing their products. Tools need to be highly customizable, flexible and cannot limit creativity. One bad technology choice can mean the difference between success and failure. Xamarin is attractive to startups because it provides cross platform capabilities, which their competitors lack. Xamarin has a proven record of accomplishment, they have shown commitment, they are innovators and have demonstrated strong community engagement.

Conversely, Startups are attractive to Microsoft. Microsoft can leverage the Xamarin community to market their other services such as Cloud, since Startups are not just Mobile first they are also Cloud first. Having said that, it is important for Microsoft to note that startups do not waste time, once they determine the tool and platform that meets their needs, they don’t look back. Therefore, Microsoft needs to get this purchase and integration right from the beginning.

Why does Microsoft care about Entrepreneurs?
Entrepreneurs will always gravitate to the best tool, as long as the tool is of high quality, affordable and is on the bleeding edge of technology. This is why Xamarin is important for Entrepreneurs: over the last few years the Xamarin Tools have provided the latest version of each mobile OS right from beta to GA. Entrepreneurs need to stay on top of the technology without having to learn 5 different types of platforms, dev tools or programming languages. Xamarin’s level of commitment makes it the perfect tool for entrepreneurs. If you are a mobile app entrepreneur, you are most likely independent-minded, always working to build your empire, and looking for opportunities to change the world. Entrepreneurs are also the best salesmen: they work day and night to build the next generation of tools, products or companies and will continue to look at Xamarin’s commitment and expect Microsoft to honor it.

How about Companies?
The importance of this acquisition will vary greatly, depending upon a company’s current mobile strategy. First, there are the companies that already use Xamarin Tools and own MSDN Subscriptions. No doubt they are thrilled. Their investment is strengthened by this purchase, and they look forward to improved licensing and integration with Visual Studio. On the other hand, if you are a company that has stayed away from mobile, this would be the right time to revisit your mobile strategy. If your company does not have a strategy on how it would compete in future markets like Mobile and IoT devices, then you need to develop one. Not all mobile applications are for consumers. The largest majority are in-house apps that improve their day-to-day operations. These types of apps can make a huge difference on how your company responds to market changes and remains competitive. Just take a look at small mom and pop stores and notice that they are mostly using iPads to track customer purchases. Those iPad Apps help improve customer engagement by tracking traffic, personalizing orders, gathering feedback, sending receipts via email and lots more.

Conclusion
Microsoft’s future is now Xamarin’s future. Microsoft clearly means business, and it is time to adopt a Mobile strategy and immediately set your eye on the next wave of technologies such as IoT, Big Data, and Machine Learning. All of which are part of Microsoft’s platform and will now be implemented via the Xamarin Tools.

SharePoint Mobile App Development with Xamarin and VS2013

I will be presenting at the Connecticut SharePoint User Group this Thursday September 18th at 6PM-8PM.  The presentation will be held on the new Microsoft Office located at 280 Trumbull Street, 21st Floor, Hartford CT.  RSVP at http://www.meetup.com/ctspug/events/203033462/

Description

SharePoint 2013 + Xamarin for Visual Studio 2013 provides the ability to build great mobile business apps using C# as the main programming language. It can be used to build apps for iOS, Android, Kindle Fire and more. Apps are built using the target platform API, and native user interface controls.  Apps not only look the way the end user expects, but they also behave as expected.   Xamarin Studio provides an integration with Visual Studio, IDE for Mac as well as Windows IDE for Android development.  Apps are build using familiar language(C#) and namespace based on the .Net framework which we all have come to love.  Your users will love using Apps that are targeted to their personal device, which in turn will increase productivity and business value.

Session Abstract

1. Introduction
2. Quick view on Today’s Mobile Dev Landscape
3. Intro into Xamarin IDE
4. Demo C# IPhone App for SharePoint/Office 365
5. Demo Universal UI App Development for SharePoint /Office 365

Hector Luciano Jr is a manager with BlumShapiro’s Technology Consulting Group, Hector has over 14 years of experience with Microsoft .Net software application development, including architecting and designing solutions for web, client/server and mobile platforms.