We’ve been talking about the fact that Microsoft could make a huge move in enhancing the Windows App ecosystem simply by doing two things:
Make it free
Recently, Microsoft bought Xamarin, checking off one of the two things they needed to do. I speculated on whether Microsoft would make Xamarin free for everyone. I believed that Microsoft would include Xamarin in different tiers for different levels of Visual Studio. But I noted that only by making it free for everyone, including the Visual Studio Community Edition Users, would Microsoft get the full community benefit.
Microsoft is to acquire Xamarin. Read the article here. Xamarin is far and away the best tool for writing cross-platform mobile apps, but their business model greatly slowed the company’s customer acquisition.
A new mobile developer could easily install Eclipse for free and develop a mobile app without zero cost. The minimum Xamarin fee cost $25 a month but it did not work with Visual Studio. The minimum Xamarin version that worked with Visual Studio cost $1000 a month.
Better business models existed. I long recommended that Xamarin be completely free to for developers to download and use, but the compiled code should have been time-bombed for one day. Of course, with IL editors such time-bombing could be removed, but doing so would not be easy. This model would have allowed them to gather all the indie developers who had an idea and quickly get their application to work on iOS, Android, and Windows. Then at release time, charging a fee to publish the app would have been more palatable. In the long run it would have resulted in more customers and users. It would have skyrocketed the number of xamarin developers. I believe Xamarin would have ended up making far more money by charging less to way more users. But Xamarin disagreed.
Microsoft sees the need to make Xamarin the go to language from cross-platform apps. The flaky and hacked together html5 stack is the only other option for true cross-platform development. Microsoft and Visual Studio has a marge larger user base than Xamarin. If Microsoft’s intention to maintain Xamarin’s model, they would be making a huge mistake.
Microsoft should immediately add Xamarin to the Visual Studio Enterprise subscribers. Enterprise is the top-level and should get everything. There will be some loss of revenue as some Xamarin customers are also Enterprise subscribers, but that loss in negligible and would probably be made up by higher renewal rates and less downgrades. However, if Miocrosoft were to add all of Xamarin also to their Visual Studio Professional subscribers, Xamarin might lose a huge portion of revenue, as most Xamarin customers are also Visual Studio Subscribers. If they want to keep this revenue, then they could easily add a mobile subscription level for mobile only developers and then a professional plus mobile subscription level entices current professional developers to upgrade.
However, what if Microsoft doesn’t care about Xamarin’s revenue at all. What if what they care about is getting mobile developers to primarily use Visual Studio. What if they give Xamarin in its entirety away free in Community Edition so everyone at any Visual Studio level would have it. And what if they open source it?
Were I Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, I would go the Community Edition route. But I’m not him and I do not know what he is going to do. We are left to wait and see.