When I saw the announcement today that Microsoft was going to acquire Xamarin, I was truly ecstatic! Not only because we use Xamarin at the Clearly Agile,Inc. office, but mainly because Microsoft has a tendency to make it's tools free. That's right, FREE! No more having to spend $1,000 per developer per platform to build a cross-platform application. This expenditure can be quite expensive if you're a boutique software shop. Clearly Agile Inc is what I would call an 'anti-siloed' or ultra-collaborative workplace, meaning we have every member work on every skill set and every platform. If we purchased Xamarin outright, we'd be spending around $20k just to cover the iOS and Android platforms. Cumulatively, $30K if we added Windows Phone platform to the list.
It's a smart move for Microsoft. I've worked on a few Unity3d projects in the past. Inside Unity3d, there was a tool that allowed you to use Visual Studio instead of Mono. That tool cost a cool $100. Some indie devs wouldn't spend that kind of money. When Microsoft purchased the Visual Studio integration tool, they made it FREE! Sage, strategic move, Microsoft! Because the tool was now free, everyone dumped Mono (which, side note, was inferior) and jumped on the Visual Studio bandwagon. This move increased both the use and popularity of VS - a move that ultimately drives sales of other Microsoft products.
There's no guarantee that Xamarin will be 100% free, but I applaud Microsoft for this strategic move. I look forward to seeing what this means for the future of cross-platform development. Microsoft plans to announce more details at its Build conference in a few weeks. Let's see what's in store!